Photo by Jerry Jackson
Drew center Antonio Garcia (with ball) looks to score in the second half of the Titans’ win over Westover in the second round of the Class AAA playoffs on Wednesday.
If Drew was looking for a team effort in its Class AAA second- round playoff game against visiting Westover, it got exactly what it desired.
Four of the Titans’ starters scored in double figures, led by junior Barry Mayes’ 15 points, as fourth-ranked Drew cruised to a workmanlike 67-55 victory over Westover.
Given the Titans’ balanced offensive attack, it’s no wonder coach Jarrod Davis had a simple answer when asked which of his players made a difference in pulling away from the stubborn Patriots.
“All of them,” Davis said. “Everybody we put in did something, contributed something to our victory tonight. We played strong defense against a very, very tough and fast team.”
In addition to Mayes’ 15, Rufus Brown and Derrick Frye each had 12 points and Corey Graves contributed 11. The fifth starter — Eloka Olisa — was one point shy of double figures with a nine-point effort.
It was the Titans’ aggressive 2-3 zone that helped clamp down the Patriots’ perimeter shooters, forcing Westover to try and find an inside presence.
The Patriots couldn’t.
Meanwhile, Drew’s 3-point shooting performance — the Titans knocked down seven treys in the game — helped them pull away.
Westover proved early on that it would be no easy out for the Titans. When Mayes buried a 3-pointer for Drew on the game’s first possession, Westover’s Dequan Green fired back with a corner 3-pointer of his own. The Patriots took an early 7-3 lead, and kept it close, down just 16-12 at the end of the first quarter before Drew shifted gears.
Antonio Garcia hit a 12-foot jumper, followed by Lafie Lupoe’s steal and slash to the basket at the 2:24 mark in the second quarter. That started a 16-3 run which lasted into the middle of the third quarter.
The Titans extended their lead to 61-43 early in the fourth. Westover used a full-court press late in the fourth to create some sloppy ball-handling by Drew and easy transition buckets for themselves to make the score more respectable.
“We didn’t always play our best ball tonight, but we came together when we had to,” Davis said. “We have got to find a way to completely close out ballgames though. We jumped out and played through a big lead, but we have to stop letting teams close the gap.”
With the win, Drew improved its overall record to 26-4 and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the state tournament, where it will play region rival Henry County on Friday at Georgia College.
Westover’s Brandon Hudson led all scorers with 18 points, in addition to Green’s 12 for the Patriots, who finish the season with a 17-9 record.