UWCHLAN — Downingtown West boys basketball coach Jason Ritter had some pointed words for his charges early in the second quarter of Tuesday night’s Ches-Mont League National
Division showdown at archrival Downingtown East.
“I said ‘ you’re all playing like pigs,” Ritter recounted. “Everybody is in it for themselves, and that’s not who we are. We preach giving up a good shot for a great shot,
and we weren’t doing that.’
From that moment on, the Whippets might as well have worn butcher’s aprons. After a nip-and-tuck first 12 minutes, West made mincemeat of its crosstown nemesis, flipping
the switch and uncorking a 34-5 run spanning halftime en route to a 54-34 triumph.
Junior shooting guard Ryan Betley scored the team’s first 11 points and finished with a game-high 24 on the strength of five three-pointers as the Whippets (6-0, 2-0) continued
their perfect start.
Coming in, three of the past four meetings in this storied series were decided by four points or fewer. And early on it looked like that trend would continue, with West clinging to an 11-10 lead after a first quarter featuring two ties and three lead changes. East (1-3, 0-2) held a 15-13 advantage when sophomore Shawn King sliced into the lane for a layup midway through the second quarter. After that, it was all Whippets.
Led by Betley, who scored every West point in the first quarter, the visitors netted the final 12 points of the second period, taking a double-digit lead into intermission with a game-changing sequence in the final half-minute. Betley canned a triple to make it 22-15, and after an empty Cougars possession, he spun out of a double team and found senior guard Doug Conrad wide open in the corner. Conrad buried the open look at the buzzer, giving West a 25-15 bulge and all the momentum.
“Doug’s three-pointer changed the game,’ Betley said. “It gave us a lot of momentum and confidence going into halftime.’
It didn’t get any better for the Cougars. Junior Cary Angeline, the reigning National Division MVP, knocked down a trey to cut the deficit to single digits (27-18) early in the third. But that was as good as it got for East.
West rattled off the next 14 points as part of a 20-2 run that turned a spirited slugfest into a romp. Junior forward Josh Warren started the spurt with a basket and a putback before Betley and Conrad connected from long range on back-to-back possessions to grow the lead to 39-18. Betley’s putback made it 47-20 with 6:25 left, and a bucket by senior Jeff Halle gave the Whippets their biggest lead of the night at 54-24 with 4:05 to play. East scored the game’s final 10 points after both teams emptied their benches.
When the dust settled, the Whippets had their most lopsided victory in the series since a 55-32 win in December of 2007.
After King’s basket, West held the hosts to a mere five points over the next 14-plus minutes. East managed just five points in the second and third quarters, finishing the game with 17 turnovers to just 11 field goals.
“We kept them on their toes by switching up defenses,’ Ritter said. “They’re very good, very skilled. Cary is one of the best players in the county, and he was our focus. Our kids stuck to the game plan.’
“We’re big and long,’ Betley said. “You get one shot against us and we get the rebound.’
Betley was on fire from the opening tip, starting the scoring with a layup and burying triples on two straight possessions to give West an early 8-5 lead. Midway through the fourth quarter, he had a three-pointer roll around the rim three times before dropping.
“Once you get the first couple shots to fall, you know it’s going to be a good night,’ said Betley.
Warren finished with 10 points and six rebounds to reach double figures for the sixth straight game. Most importantly, his defense on Angeline was phenomenal. The Cougars’ star forward had nine points and eight rebounds, well below his average of 17.6 points per game coming in, and battled foul trouble all night.
“What people don’t realize is that as good as Ryan is, Josh is just as good,’ Ritter said. “Nobody really gives Josh the credit he deserves, but he showed tonight that he is in the conversation as the best player in the league.’
Junior Tyion Harris chipped in six points for the Cougars, who also got six from classmate Jaret Cooper.
The schools brought large, rowdy student sections with them, but midway through the third quarter, East’s was kept silent other than a “34-14′ chant — referencing the Cougars’ victory on the gridiron this fall.
Conrad offered seven points for West, which is off to its best start in at least a decade. Returning all five starters, the Whippets appear primed for a special campaign after just missing out on districts a year ago. But with expectations sure to skyrocket after Tuesday’s impressive display, Ritter doesn’t have to look far to keep his players’ heads small.
“I reminded them of all the close losses we had last year,’ Ritter said. “Those kids are all back, so they know that feeling. They just need to be reminded about that if they get big heads.’
If Tuesday was any indication, Ritter might have to resort to that tactic a few more times.
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