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January 23, 2014

Western wins boys HCT title

Balentine leads Western's hot-shooting performance

Mother Nature played havoc with the final round of the Howard County boys basketball tournament. There were a pair of postponements and also a change of venue.

Western was more than ready when it finally took the court for the championship game.

The Panthers used red-hot shooting to rip Taylor 76-49 Wednesday night at Northwestern. The Panthers shot 26 of 42 from the field overall (62 percent) and 11 of 18 from 3-point range (61 percent).

“Mainly all Coach [Bart Miller] was talking about was focus from the get-go,” Western guard Des Balentine said. “We came out with a lot of focus and we were just hot from the beginning, and defense was excellent.”

No one was hotter than Balentine. The Panther junior made his first seven shots from the field — including four from 3-land — and finished 8 of 10 overall and 4 of 5 from 3-land. He scored a game-high 22 points and also had five assists and four rebounds.

“I was telling the assistants that this was the best I probably felt all year because of having a long break, practices off and games off,” he said. “I was able to rest up and take care of my body.”

Fellow perimeter players Austin Weaver (13 points) and Evan Warden (12) also were hot. Weaver made 3 of 5 3-point attempts. Warden was 5 of 6 overall and 2 of 2 from 3-land.

“We had a really good shooting night,” Miller said. “Shot selection, I thought, was a big key.”

Western (6-3) grabbed control in the first quarter when it hit 9 of 12 shots from the field including 5 of 7 from 3-range in building a 24-12 lead.

Up 40-23 at halftime, the Panthers broke the game wide open with another 9-of-12 shooting performance in the third quarter. They were 6 of 9 from 3-land in the quarter with Balentine and Weaver hitting two apiece. They had a 66-37 lead when the dust settled.

Taylor coach Andy Lewman could only shake his head at Western’s hot first and third quarters.

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