Third time the charm as Westover grabs state title | High school
DAVIN WILSON Special to Register & Bee
LYNCHBURG — Westover Christian Academy senior Noah Burton and junior Josh Lewis, along with the rest of the Westover squad, played in the Virginia Association of Christian Athletics state championship game on Saturday with the adage “the third time is the charm” in their minds.
The quote was especially relevant for the Bulldogs as it was their third straight appearance in the state title game.
The third time proved to be Westover’s charm as she outlasted Grace Christian School in stride for a 77-67 win and the first state title in program history.
“I was saying that in my head today before the game started,” Lewis said with a smile on his face in reference to the saying. “We got fired, and the third time is really the charm.”
Burton was all smiles after the game and even cracked a joke at the start of his interview.
“I’m pretty sad,” Burton said with a laugh. “I’m really happy. We’ve been in two state championships, we’ve lost them both, so it’s a great feeling.
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Lewis said the Bulldogs used the last two losses as fuel for the fire that erupted in today’s game.
“And I think the two losses we had got us motivated for this one,” Lewis said. “We had to get this one and it’s so great to get it. We worked so long, so hard to get it and now we are champions.
Westover head coach Jim Barber and his father, Doug, dedicated much of their lives not only to the basketball program, but also to the school, a fact that made winning a bit more special for Burton, Lewis. and the rest of the Bulldogs.
“It’s amazing, just getting that weight back from the coaches and finally saying we have one and we can put the banner up,” Burton said.
Lewis agreed with his teammate and added: “Yeah, the same thing. We wanted the coach to win this one because he hasn’t won any, no team in Westover history has won a championship and now we’ve made history.
It’s never easy to become the first to accomplish something like Westover (20-4) discovered against Grace Christian in the third quarter. Trailing 53-43, Justin Hain of the Warriors took it upon himself to become a one-man squad and made three straight layups and a free throw for a quick 7-0 deficit-cutting run by Grace Christian at three with 1:01 to play. in the neighborhood.
“Just ‘oh man, we gotta change defense,'” Burton said when asked what was going through the Bulldogs’ mind during the run. [Hain] because he was so big, so we just had to switch areas and put more body on him.
Lewis added: “Yeah none of us could really stop him because he was so strong, we were in man then we went 1-1-3 so we had to go into the zone.”
The change worked not only on the defensive end, but also on the offensive end, as well as Lewis knocking down a free throw to push Westover’s lead to four and Burton giving the Bulldogs a double shot, espresso of momentum with his running back. -pitch, 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave Westover a 57-50 lead going into the final frame.
“It just sent us into the neighborhood on fire,” Burton said. “It let us know, ‘hey, here we are, we got it, we’re going to win this game.'”
Lewis added: “We came into the quarter saying, ‘we have now. That momentum went so fast when he hit that shot and that’s why we got him.
Lewis in particular came out fiery in the fourth quarter, scoring six of the first eight points on the frame to give the Bulldogs a 63-52 lead with 5:43 left in the game.
The Bulldogs pushed their lead up to 15 over Dallas Wheeler’s senior layup, making it 75-60 with just over a minute left.
Lewis finished with a game-high 36 points and 14 rebounds to complete the double-double while junior Isaac Von Eime finished with a double-double of 12 points and 11 assists. Burton finished with 13 to give Westover three double-digit points.
Hain led the Warriors with 27 points while Davis Reid added 11 and Ryan Brent finished with 10.
Despite the double-digit difference, the competition remained close in the first half, with neither team taking more than a two possession lead.
Grace Christian (10-9) took a 19-18 lead over the Brent jumper with 6:49 left in the second quarter. Von Eime tied the game with his free throw and Lewis pushed Westover ahead with his layup with just over six minutes left.
The Warriors regained the lead on junior Bennett Carter’s 3-pointer who made it 22-21 and Hain gave Grace Christian a three-point lead over his jumper with 4:52 to go.
The two teams traded leads until late in the quarter when Westover used a mix of defense and defensive rebounding to clinch an 8-0 run. Lewis started with his steal and transition layup and followed with a free throw and-1 on the same play. Burton then struck knocking down a defensive backboard and found Lewis with a pass to midfield for a lay-up that turned into a three-point play after the junior was fouled and the Bulldogs led 35-30 before the break.