RUSSIAVLLE — Western’s boys basketball team continued its hot play with a 61-57 victory over Sectional 20 rival West Lafayette on Saturday afternoon at Richard R. Rea Gymnasium.
The Panthers (11-4) have won three straight games and eight of their last nine.
“We had four games in the past seven days. We were tired,” Western forward Mo Townsend said. “To get this win against the toughest team we played this week is great.”
Western improved to 5-1 against Sectional 20 opponents, the best such record among the seven teams in the Class 3A field. Defending sectional champion West Lafayette (11-6 overall) is 2-1 against sectional opponents.
“It was definitely a big win,” Townsend said. “We came in, we were focused and we got a really big win.”
Townsend made a pair of key plays in the fourth quarter to help the Panthers take the win. First, he came up with a steal and took it to the other end where he scored a hoop-and-harm layup and free throw for a 55-52 lead with 3:17 remaining, the Panthers’ first advantage since midway through the third quarter.
“Mo anticipating there [for the steal] and finishing was big,” Western coach Bart Miller said.
Next, Townsend drilled a 3-pointer at 2:41 to give the Panthers a 58-54 lead. Townsend was 3 of 4 from 3-land in the game.
The Red Devils closed to within 58-57 at 2:08. After the Panthers’ Zach Shahan split a pair of free throws to make it 59-57 at 1:05, the Devils missed a potential tying shot and William Mbongo’s offensive rebound at :37 went for naught when he was called for traveling when he landed off balance. Still, the Devils had a chance to tie or take the lead when the Panthers’ Des Balentine missed both ends of a double bonus at :28.8.
The Devils ran the clock down to :05.6 before calling a timeout. Out of the timeout, Western’s Gabe Harp stole the inbounds pass and raced downcourt. The Devils fouled him at :01 and he sealed the win with a pair of free throws.