NORWOOD — The West Stanly boys’ basketball team quickly found itself in a 13-point hole to South Stanly on Thursday, but the Colts fought back in the second half to earn a 63-53 road win.
In the first quarter between the two nonconference and county rivals, the winless Bulls (0-7, 0-1 Yadkin Valley) outscored the Colts (5-2, 0-0 Rocky River) by an 18-5 margin. West Stanly responded by winning the final three quarters.
“I’m very happy with the way we closed out, hit free throws down the stretch and, for the most part, took care of the ball,” West Stanly coach John Thompson said. “I’m not sure if it’s what I said or how I said it, but I think they got the message that the way we played in the first half was unacceptable. They responded and held them to five points in the third quarter.”
With five minutes left in the game, South Stanly’s Gavyn Miller hit a 3-pointer to bring his team within three points of the Colts. But West Stanly closed out the contest with a 16-9 run that included six consecutive made free throws.
Thompson told SCJ that his players have recently made more of a collective effort to improve their free-throw shooting.
“If I had enough time we’d shoot 100 a day, but we’re limited on gym space and time. But we have made an emphasis in the last couple of practices,” Thompson said. “It’s not just something to do — it’s important to do.”
Junior Matthew Parker led the Colts with 19 points, while senior Charlie Carpenter added 15 points and five rebounds. Both players were 4 of 8 from the field. Sophomore Jaxson Hinton contributed 10 points off the bench.
Junior Omaurion Eldridge led the Bulls with a season-high 22 points. Sophomore Drew Gaddy added 10 points.
One night after suffering the loss to West Stanly, the Bulls’ struggles continued with a 71-41 home loss to Albemarle (2-4, 1-0 Yadkin Valley) in their conference opener. It marked the Bulls’ seventh-consecutive loss and the Bulldogs’ second straight win after losing their first four games.
West Stanly will travel to Mount Pleasant (4-1, 1-0 Yadkin Valley) for a Wednesday night matchup between two teams that previously topped the Rocky River Conference standings regularly before conference realignment moved the Tigers.
Thompson said that he is seeing improvements, but his team is still looking for an identity after its top five scorers from last season all graduated.
“We’re a pretty unselfish team, but sometimes we’re not as smart as we need to be,” he added. “That’s just from inexperience where they want to make the right play, but sometimes they just don’t quite know what the right play is.
“It just takes a little bit of getting guys acclimated and we just have to grow up quickly.”