East Xtra: 'House overrides Obama
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The chance to get a signature win is a valuable one that can often define a team's season. If a team happens to get a victory in one of those games, then it can help make an otherwise mediocre season a successful one or an already successful season that much better.
A loss, though, can bring about a slew of unanswerable questions, as well as a lasting sting that may well not go away for the remainder of the season.
The boys basketball team at Westinghouse was presented with such an opportunity last Friday and in the big moment, the Bulldogs found a way to come through. Facing the top-ranked team in the City League, Obama Academy, Westinghouse notched its biggest victory of the season, defeating the Eagles, 72-69, in overtime. The loss snapped a 10-game win streak for Obama.
"We have an overall goal of making the state playoffs and hopefully making a run at the city championship," Westinghouse coach Tariq Francis said. "We knew Obama was the measuring stick and to come out of there with a win, it was big."
Westinghouse's victory represented the culmination of what has been a midseason turnaround for the team.
It was a little more than a month ago that the Bulldogs' prospects for a successful season seemed relatively dim. A lopsided 81-44 loss to Williamsport on Dec. 15 was the team's fourth in five games, dropping its overall record to 2-4, but the team responded to win five of its next six games heading into the matchup against Obama.
As they have been almost all season, the numbers were against the Bulldogs entering the game. Francis said the team has just seven players on its roster, a group that includes four seniors and five players who Francis said "have the skills and are at a level where they're supposed to play varsity."
When faced with adversity, however, Westinghouse (8-6, 4-2) responded. After trailing by 13 at halftime and by eight entering the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs fought back into the game late, outscoring Obama, 19-11, in the fourth quarter before ultimately defeating the Eagles in overtime.
"It was about addressing the issues," Francis said of the comeback. "They responded. It's something we've been talking about all year and to see them respond the way they did, it made us very, very proud."
Four players -- Robert Bailey, Affanni Brown, Shaquon Johnson and Sonte White -- scored in double figures for Westinghouse, with Bailey's 26 points leading the way.
Although his performance was impressive, it was just one of many standout showings for Bailey this season. He is averaging 19.4 points per game this season, making him the second-leading scorer of any City League player (trailing only Obama's D.J. Porter).
"He's a very special kid," Francis said. "His scoring is big, but his leadership is even better."
The Bulldogs will look to follow up on the big win in the coming weeks. They have six games remaining, with two in particular standing out -- at Brashear on Feb. 1 and the rematch against Obama on Feb. 11.
A high-scoring Friday
For the past few seasons in WPIAL boys basketball, there have been few teams that have matched the success of Gateway, which has won the past two WPIAL Class AAAA titles. Last Friday, however, they accomplished even something they hadn't done since the first Bush administration. In its victory against Penn Hills, Gateway scored 92 points, its highest point total since scoring 92 on Jan. 29, 1991. Five Gators scored in double figures in the victory, led by Deon Cottrell-Baker's 21 points.
Although Gateway's offensive outburst was by far the most historic, it was not the only team that put up big offensive numbers Friday. The Wilkinsburg boys' team scored 94 points in its win against Imani Christian, its most since Feb. 16, 2010, and the Chartiers Valley boys' team scored 100 points in a victory against Keystone Oaks, its most since Jan. 11, 2011.
Having a "go-to scorer" is almost something of a prerequisite for a team to have a strong season. The Allderdice girls basketball team is in the enviable position of having two of them. Sierra Fordham and Sydnee Abernathy are among the top 15 leading scorers in the WPIAL and City League, with both players averaging more than 20 points per game. Last Friday may have been the pair's best combined performance to date, as Fordham scored 44 points and Abernathy added 32 as the Dragons, the No. 1 team in the City League, defeated No. 3 Carrick.
First Published January 24, 2013 12:00 am