Bobcats Pull Away in the Final Quarter to Defeat Westlake

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Louis Fillippelli and Harrison Adams
Louis Fillippelli and Harrison Adams

By Monica D’Ippolito – When Westlake coach Steven Gage walked into the Byram Hills gym Friday night, he couldn’t help noticing a lot of familiar faces, including Bobcats coach Ted Repa, with whom he worked for 12 years.

“I love Ted, and he’s one of the best, if not the best, coach in the section,” said Gage after his Wildcats fell 51-35 to Repa’s Bobcats. “He and the rest of the coaches have not only my respect, but my love. It felt good to be back, not only to see them and coach here, but to see all the people that I’ve worked so hard with all those years.”

Through three quarters, it was a tight contest, with the lead changing hands several times and the score tied on four separate occasions. But the Bobcats only allowed one basket in the fourth quarter and pulled away to improve their record to 13-2 this season.

“We executed down the stretch, guys started making shots,” Repa said. “We were ice cold the entire game. I mean, they were daring us to shoot. I don’t know what our 3-point percentage was, but it was nowhere near what our capabilities are.”

With 3:40 remaining before halftime and his team trailing by 11 points, Gage called a timeout. The Wildcats then went on a 6-0 run to end the second quarter and slice the Byram lead to 21-17.

Westlake’s Jesse Boyce tied the game at 23-all a couple of minutes into the third quarter and later evened the score again by earning a trip to the foul line with just under 10 seconds remaining in the quarter. After he connected on both free throws, the teams were tied at 33-apiece heading to the final period.

But the fourth quarter was dominated by Byram Hills, which was led by senior center Andrew Groll, who scored eight points and collected five rebounds in the period.

“A guy by the name of Groll,” said Gage of the difference-maker in the fourth quarter. “I mean, he is an All-Section player, he’s a hell of a big kid. Our big kid fouled out and he just punished us.”

Westlake’s starting center, Louis Marinelli, fouled out with just under six minutes remaining in the game, giving Groll more room to operate in the paint.

On a night when the Byram Hills seniors were honored before the tipoff, Groll capped off the evening with a double-double, recording 20 points and 14 rebounds, and wound up a perfect six for six from the foul line.

“Means a lot, all about us seniors,” said Groll afterwards. “It’s really nice just to have a nice win.”

Neither team shot particularly well, as the Wildcats shot 32 percent from the field, while the Bobcats finished just under 40 percent; however Byram Hills connected on seven 3-point attempts to just two treys for the Wildcats.

“We did not play well at all,” Repa said after the win. “We usually make those open looks and we weren’t making anything. I thought Andrew Groll really stepped up in the fourth quarter. He really started to dominate inside and obviously we started hitting some 3s down the stretch that gave us some breathing room.”

Along with Groll, Skylar Sinon led the Bobcats offensively. The freshman guard finished with 10 points, three assists and three big steals in the final minutes. Seniors Ross Weinfeld and Mike Sardo finished with five points each. Weinfeld added four assists and Sardo had two.

“We came out a little soft,” Groll said. “We came out with a big lead and they came back in, tied going into the fourth quarter. It was a tough game throughout, but we started hitting shots. Defensively, we got up into them with some ball screens, put the ball out of their shooters (hands) and got a lot of steals. Skylar had a bunch of steals in the end and definitely helped us win.”

Westlake was led by Daniel Grieco, who scored 11 points and grabbed three rebounds. Harrison Adams finished with nine points and eight rebounds, while Boyce added nine points as well.

“We didn’t make our shots, but really everything in life comes down to your heart and these kids showed that they’ve got it,” Gage said. “I’m really proud of my kids, though. For a school like us, bringing our program up to where we want it to be, to fight and be tied with six minutes left, I feel great about it.

As pleased as Gage was that the Wildcats provided Byram with a surprising scare for a while, he hopes it won’t be long before his team always gets plenty of respect.

“Now it’s Westlake’s turn,” he said. “Now we set up our program, and I look forward to the day when everyone walks into our building and feels like we’re the team to be dealt with.”

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