NORTH JUDSON — At the start of the fourth quarter, 21st Century held just a four-point lead. Six minutes of game time later, the Cougars led by 16.
When it was all said and done, 21st Century had completed a 67-58 win over Westview to capture the Class 2A North Judson-San Pierre Regional — something the Cougars have grown accustomed to.
“I think our defense, our pressure just wore them down.” 21st Century coach Larry Upshaw said. “Every quarter we knocked them down a little bit.”
Westview senior Brady Yoder gave the Cougars fits early, scoring 12 first-quarter points. 21st Century flipped the switch in the second half, holding Yoder scoreless in the third quarter and to seven points in the fourth.
One of the key momentum-switching plays in the final frame came off a Warriors inbound. With 21st Century pressing, Terrance Hayes got in the passing lane and converted an easy layup to stretch the Cougars’ lead to eight.
People are also reading…
It was one of four second-half buckets for the freshman, who finished the game with 12.
“I know my team’s depending on me to make shots because that’s my job,” Hayes said.
Early on, the scoring for the Cougars came from a familiar face, senior guard Ashton Williamson. Down the stretch, however, Westview keyed on the 21st Century star. After the 16-point first half, Williamson scored just three points in the second half.
Still, it was Williamson routinely breaking through pressure and double teams at the top of the key to dish it open Cougars on the block to jumpstart 21st Century’s run.
“I didn’t want to rush,” Upshaw said. “We had about a seven-point lead, and I wanted to make them chase. (Williamson) did his job by finding the wide open people.
“He’s a coach on the floor.”
Perhaps the biggest contributors for the Cougars in their strong final frame were Quintin Floyd and Lemetrius Williams. Floyd had himself just three points in the first quarter and Williams four. In the fourth quarter alone the pair provided 17 points — nine from Floyd and eight from Williams.
“It means a lot knowing it’s my senior year,” Floyd said. “Any game can be my last. I want to get all the way to the end. I want to make history here.”
“I don’t want to go home,” Williamson said, echoing Floyd’s sentiment. “I don’t want to think about it over and over knowing that I can’t do nothing about it once I graduate.”
For Williamson, Floyd and the rest of the senior class, they’re all too familiar with this stage of the playoffs. The former Class 1A powers will look to finish the job this time around. The Cougars are now two semistate wins away from a trip to Indianapolis and a third from a state championship.
And 21st Century hasn’t lost sight of the ultimate prize.
“It’s another step on the ladder,” Upshaw said. “The ultimate goal is to get a state championship. I don’t care if it’s 1A or 2A or whatever-A. We just want to get down there and get a chance at it. Hats off to Westview, they played a great game.”