HENDERSON – After making the Division 2A state tournament last season, the West Wendover boys basketball team is off to a pretty good start in the 2017-2018 campaign.
The Wolverines are off to a 4-1 start, winning their first game of the season on Nov. 29 on the road against American Prep in West Valley, Utah, following with a 3-1 record in the Holiday Classic at Lake Mead Academy – defeating Lake Mead Academy, Virgin Valley and Slam Academy and falling to Spring Creek.
Versus American Prep
West Wendover head coach John Sharp said the Wolverines “started off sluggishly” in the season opener but added his team was “able to pull away and win.”
The Wolverines cruised to an 85-62 victory in the first game of the year, placing four players in double digits.
Junior point guard Eric Correa led the way for West Wendover with 19 points, followed by 18 from senior guard Saul Palacios.
Junior Armondo Gonzalez-Haro scored 16 points and senior Dante Robles rounded out the double-digit scorers with 12 points.
WEST WENDOVER – 16 – 30 – 18 – 21 – 85 Total
AMERICAN PREP – 10 – 14 – 20 – 16 – 60 Total
The Wolverines opened the Holiday Classic against the home team, the Lake Academy Eagles.
West Wendover jumped to a 16-7 lead by the end of the first quarter, but Sharp said the second period was a “different story.”
“We forgot how to play defense and were outscored 23-10 in the second,” he said.
Entering halftime, the Wolverines trailed the Eagles 30-26, placing West Wendover in a dogfight in the second half.
Sharp said the difference to the ballgame was his team’s ability to rebound the basketball.
“We crashed the boards hard and pulled down 45 rebounds, which gave us a lot of second-chance opportunities,” he said. “I wasn’t pleased with the second-quarter effort, but they rallied and pulled off the win against a good Lake Mead team.”
West Wendover outscored Lake Mead 18-11 in the third period, losing a close fourth-quarter battle 17-15.
The Wolverines hung on for a 59-58 victory, improving to 2-0 on the season.
Palacios scored nearly half of the Wolverines’ points, pumping in a team-high 29.
WEST WENDOVER – 16 – 10 – 18 – 15 – 59 Total
LAKE MEAD – 7 – 23 – 11 – 17 – 58 Total
Versus Virgin Valley
The Wolverines rolled to a 3-0 victory Thursday over Virgin Valley, playing a more complete ballgame start-to-finish.
West Wendover led the entire way and was never really threatened, extending to a 71-53 win with a big fourth quarter.
“We played Virgin Valley twice last year and split with them. The last was a double overtime win for us,” Sharp said. “This year was a different story. We came out strong and never trailed.”
The Wolverines shot 50 percent from the floor and knocked down 14 3s on 61-percent shooting from distance.
Three players scored in double figures, led by a team-high 28 from Palacios.
Gonzales-Haro finished with 13 points and Correa added 11.
WEST WENDOVER – 17 – 19 – 22 – 15 – 73 Total
VIRGIN VALLEY – 13 – 15 – 16 – 7 – 51 Total
Versus Spring Creek
The Wolverines tasted defeat for the first time of the season, coming in a back-and-forth battle against Spring Creek, the Spartans making free throws late and winning by a final score of 62-58 on Friday in the tournament semifinal.
“There must have been 20 lead changes in the game. It was a fun game to coach,” Sharp said. “I was an assistant for Scott (Carsrud), so anytime we play its fun. Both teams played hard.”
Mental miscues hurt the Wolverines late.
“We were leading by four with 1:15 left in regulation and one of our players picked up a technical foul. That started the momentum change,” Sharp said. “They capitalized on free throws, plus got the ball back and scored. We took a bad shot and they scored again. We were forced to foul.”
In the process of fouling, the Wolverines picked up a flagrant foul – the Spartans once again capitalizing from the line.
“I give Spring Creek credit. They didn’t get rattled; they just played. We shot poorly in the game and our free throw percentage was just 53 percent,” Sharp said. “I stress the fact that games are won and lost at the free throw line and this game proved it.”
In defeat, Palacios led the Wolverines with 20 points, joined in double digits by senior forward Eduardo Gonzalez, who finished with 12 points – finishing a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor.
WEST WENDOVER – 16 – 14 – 9 – 19 – 58 Total
SPRING CREEK – 18 – 10 – 13 – 21 – 62 Total
Versus Slam Academy
In the consolation final Saturday, the Wolverines claimed third place in the Holiday Classic with a close, 67-65 victory over Slam Academy, which will compete as an independent this season but play in the Division 3A South next year.
The game was knotted up at 31-all at the break, but the turning point came in the third period – the Wolverines posting a 25-point frame, limiting Slam Academy to 16 points.
In the final frame, Slam Academy could not overcome a nine-point deficit – despite outscoring West Wendover 18-11 over the final eight minutes.
The Wolverines improved to 4-1 on the year and took third place in the tournament with a 3-1 record with a 67-65 victory.
Palacios paced the charge with 25 points, and Gonzalez-Haro (13 points) and Robles (10 points) all scored in double figures.
SLAM ACADEMY – 14 – 17 – 16 – 18 – 65 Total
WEST WENDOVER – 13 – 18 – 25 – 11 – 67 Total
The Wolverines will host Grantsville (Utah) in their home opener at 7 p.m. MST Wednesday in West Wendover.