Early in Friday’s battle of District 5-4A unbeatens, it seemed like Trophy Club Byron Nelson forward Emmanuel Nzekwesi would have his way down low against Guyer and the Bobcats would cruise to an easy win.
Late in a thrilling nail-biter, Nzekwesi made his presence felt again after being quieted for much of the second half by Guyer’s post defense.
With less than 20 seconds to play and Nelson clinging to a two-point lead, Guyer guard Miles Crawford went the length of the floor and seemed to have an easy path to the bucket for a game-tying layup. But Nzekwesi came out of nowhere and altered Crawford’s shot, forcing the junior to try a double-clutching layup with his back to the basket, and the Bobcats held on for a 50-46 win at Wildcat Gymnasium.
“Anytime in transition, we’re going to look to score first,” Guyer coach Grant Long said. “He was looking to score and big 33 [Nzekwesi] stepped right up. We would’ve liked to have kicked it there and hit a shooter, but we will next time. We always look to attack in transition before the defense can set up, though. We just didn’t get a great shot there.”
Guyer (12-6, 2-1 District 5-4A) hit a lot of shots in rallying back from an 11-point halftime deficit, led by sharp 3-point shooting from guard Zack Duncan, who finished with a team-high 15 points, and key fourth-quarter buckets from Mitchell Willard, who added 10 points.
The Wildcats fought back in a game they never led, going on run after run but never getting closer than the two-point deficit they had in the waning seconds, as the Bobcats (17-3, 3-0) were always able to keep Guyer at arm’s length.
“We just couldn’t get over the hump. I think as we get more practices under our belt with all our guys in there, we’ll continue to get better,” Long said, referencing Jerrod Heard and D.J. Breedlove, who played their first game since moving over from the football team, and star forward Josh Jordan, who is out with an injury for at least a few more weeks. “We’re going to grow from this and get better as a team. That was two really good teams battling tonight.”
Though the Wildcats had more offensive success in the second half, the biggest key to Guyer clawing back was the way it clamped down on Nzekwesi, a 6-6 sophomore who had 12 of his 16 points in the first half to go with all seven of his rebounds and his two blocks.
With Guyer post player Justin Griffin in foul trouble for much of the game, the post defense often fell to Heard and Xavier Brown, who kept the big man without a second-half rebound.
“That was the difference in the second half,” Long said. “We kept [Nzekwesi] off the boards. We pushed the ball and looked to attack and hit teammates for open shots. That was the main difference. It was simple, really.”
The difference for the Bobcats was their fourth-quarter free throw shooting, with the exception of an empty-handed one-and-one that led to Crawford’s final shot.
Other than that miss, Nelson went 7-for-8 from the line in the final frame, including a 4-for-5 quarter from Thomas Williams, who finished the night with 13 points.
Long said his team will use Friday’s narrow loss as a tool to get better, and that fans might have seen the two best teams in 5-4A going at it. The teams will meet again Jan. 29 at Nelson, possibly with the district race on the line.
“I think we can be [the best team in the district],” Long said. “I think we both can be that. There are really going to be some battles between us. Everyone in our district is tough, but we’re two of the best.”
Guyer 37, Nelson 32
When Guyer took a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter, it seemed as though the Lady Wildcats were well on their way to pulling ahead of Nelson in the district standings.
That’s when the Lady Wildcats came unraveled.
Nelson went on a 13-2 run to pull within one point with 1:20 remaining after a 3-pointer from Tralyn Woodward.
But after that, the Lady Bobcats (14-9, 3-2) got sloppy. Guyer’s Quamese Moss came up with two steals in the final 10 seconds, one of which led to an easy lay-in, to seal the game for Guyer (14-6, 4-1).
“We’ve been in that situation before and let the game slip away from us,” Guyer coach Harold Colson said. “It was good to see them playing with composure and with poise and weather that storm. They did a good job of hanging in there.”
The key stretch for Guyer was a span of more than 8 minutes spanning most of the second quarter and the beginning of the third in which the Lady Wildcats held Nelson scoreless.
“That was a big stretch for us,” Colson said. “I knew they were a really good shooting team, and I was surprised watching them and seeing they weren’t hitting their shots. We took advantage of it during that stretch and were able to score some points during that time. That was obviously the key part of the game.”
Moss and Katy Davis led Guyer with 11 points apiece, while Moss added six steals. The Lady Wildcats also dominated the glass, led by freshman post player Bre Wickware, who grabbed 14 rebounds to go with her four points and four blocks. Sophomore guard Ola Akinniyi added 10 rebounds.
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trophy Club Byron Nelson 50, Guyer 46
Nelson 10 16 11 13 — 50
Guyer 4 11 16 15 — 46
Nelson (17-3, 3-0) — Thomas Williams 13, Conor Mullis 4, Keyunta Watkins 13, Chris Nickells 2, Cale Popovich 2, Emmanuel Nzekwesi 16.
Guyer (12-6, 2-1) — Jerrod Heard 2, Sean Choate 6, Miles Crawford 9, Mitchell Willard 10, Zack Duncan 15, Justin Griffin 4.
Guyer 37, Trophy Club Byron Nelson 32
Nelson 7 2 8 15 — 32
Guyer 9 9 11 8 — 37
Nelson (14-9, 3-2) — Tralyn Woodward 12, Shaila Wolter 4, Sydney Smallwood 3, Model Simms 2, Madison Edwards 3, Abbey Reed 4, Dee Robinson 4.
Guyer (14-6, 4-1) — Quamese Moss 11, Madison Franklin 2, Tierney Peters 5, Bre Wickware 4, Katy Davis 11, Jada Calloway 4.