After battling back from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter Friday night, it started to look like the Wetumpka boys basketball team was going to walk away with its second close victory in as many days to start the season.
Wetumpka’s Tyquan Rawls followed up a putback with a steal and a layup to give the Indians a three-point lead with 35 seconds to go in the game but Prattville Christian was not letting the visitors away easily. PCA’s Carson Roberson knocked down his fifth 3-pointer to send it into overtime where the Panthers turned it up a notch on offense to secure an 80-73 win over Wetumpka.
“We just stressed playing really hard and they did that,” Wetumpka coach Byron Gaskin said. “We got it pushed to overtime but we got into foul trouble early and we got ourselves in a bind. That took a toll on us down the stretch.”
Rawls was one of those players who got into foul trouble, sitting most of the first half with two fouls. He was the key to the comeback, scoring 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, but it was clear the time without him on the court made a difference.
“When it takes my best shooter out, it definitely affects us,” Gaskin said. “We have other guys who can shoot but you take the best one off the court on some nick-nack fouls, that lets the defense relax a little bit. But we fought hard until the end.”
Zeylin Hooks was forced to take on the lead offensive role through most of the game and he delivered with a team-high 22 points to go along with five assists and two steals. Hooks scored eight of his points in the overtime period to keep Wetumpka within striking distance as long as possible.
“He had some struggles early and made some bad decisions but he’s a great player,” Gaskin said. “He stayed aggressive the whole night and you could see it come on late.”
Wetumpka (1-1) used its defensive pressure to go on an 11-2 run over a 94-second span to take its 3-point lead late in regulation. Prattville Christian was forced into three turnovers in that stretch but it was the press that allowed the Panthers to get down the court quickly to find Roberson open for the game-tying triple.
“I thought about (calling off the press) but we wanted to keep the pressure on them,” Gaskin said. “We wanted to keep the game at our pace. That’s just our style.”
The Panthers (2-2) continued to break the press in overtime, getting to the bucket and drawing fouls. Prattville Christian made eight free throws in the final three minutes to pull away.
Jacob Comer led all scorers as he paced the Panthers with 29 points while making 19 free throws, three more than the entire Wetumpka team.
Wetumpka got most of its production from the bench as Gaskin continued to keep the players who were on the football team out of the starting lineup. The bench, led by Rawls and Stone Minnifield’s 14 points, outscored the starters 43-30. Gaskin said some players are still working on getting into basketball shape but he expects everyone to be ready to go by the time the next game rolls around.
“We don’t play another game until December so we have the whole next week to work that out and kind of create some competition,” Gaskin said. “We are still trying to figure out exactly what our identity is but going into this break should help us work some of those kinks out. I think we’re going to be fine as long as we keep playing hard.”