The Kokomo Wildkats and the Westfield Shamrocks played toe-to-toe in the first half of Saturday’s boys basketball game at Memorial Gym. Kokomo never led in the first quarter but the game was tied twice. They traded the lead six times in the second quarter and Kokomo had a four-point lead at one time. Back-to-back 3-point buckets by Westfield’s Braden Smith in the middle of the second quarter ignited not only the Shamrocks but himself.

That spark rolled into the third quarter and led to a 68-50 victory for Westfield.

Despite trailing by three at halftime, the Wildkats’ offense shot well but turned the ball over 11 times. The Kats were 11 of 20 from the field, including 4 of 7 from behind the arc, and 4 of 5 from the foul line. That was better compared to Westfield’s 14 of 31 from the field, including 5 of 14 from 3-point range. The Shamrocks protected the ball offensively better, turning the ball over only five times in the first half, and took advantage of misplaced passes from the Wildkats.

But the strong play in the first half did not transition to the second half.

“I think for us it always starts with our defense,” said Kokomo coach Bob Wonnell. “I thought the first couple possessions we did a pretty solid job defensively. But I think down here offensively we got impatient. Sometimes when you get impatient, you take bad shots, and bad shots lead to long rebounds. Long rebounds lead to transition. I think that is what got them going a little bit was the transition side of it.”

Kokomo (1-1) only turned the ball over three times in the second half, but their shooting plummeted, going 7 of 30 from the field and 1 of 8 from behind the arc. Westfield (1-0) grabbed 15 of its 23 defensive rebounds in the second half. But Smith was the dagger through the heart for Kokomo.

In the third quarter, Westfield outscored Kokomo 20-8, which included an 18-3 run. Smith alone contributed 14 Shamrock points. He finished the night with a game-high 35 points, 22 in the second half, and a game-high 10 rebounds.

“He’s a volume shooter, and he’s a great shooter,” said Wonnell.

Smith shot the ball 25 times, connecting with 14. The rest of the Westfield squad went 14 of 30.

“He’s got the green light, and he knows it. I thought in the first half we made it hard on him. I thought in the second half – really to end the first half – [he got a] couple offensive rebounds and he got two horse shots back-to-back and I thought that really got him going a little bit.”

Wonnell said at the end of the day, Kokomo didn’t do a great job of stopping Westfield, or Smith, defensively.

“I was just disappointed in the fact that I thought the last 12 minutes we just [said] ‘okay we’re done, and we’re not playing anymore. They beat us,’” said Wonnell.

“We’ve got to be more connected as a group and more worried about the idea of trying to win for Kokomo no matter what’s going well or not so well for me as an individual.”

Bobby Wonnell led Kokomo with 13 points and Savion Barrett contributed another 12. Barrett led the Wildkats with six rebounds.

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