There was no thrilling buzzer-beater this time around, but the end result was the same.
The Patton boys basketball team defeated West Caldwell to remain the lone undefeated squad in the Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference, following up last month’s heroics in Gamewell with a convincing victory at home Tuesday night, 70-52.
Playing for the first time in a week and for just the second time in a 26-day span, the Panthers (4-0 NWFAC) didn’t look rusty. In fact, they stormed out of the gates to a 10-3 lead on the strength of five Waylon Rutherford points, then made it 19-6 with 1:40 left in the opening frame as Rutherford contributed five more.
The lead grew again to 28-9 to open the second quarter on five straight from Caleb Castle, then after West got within 13 at the period’s midway point, Rutherford and Castle combined for Patton’s next nine points for a 15-point advantage that was trimmed back to nine at the break.
The Warriors clipped the deficit to single digits once more in the middle stages of the third, but a 3-pointer from Brayden Vess pushed PHS’ lead back past 10, then Castle made a halfcourt heave at the horn to make it a 15-point lead again. The guests never threatened from there on, and an 11-0 Panther run in the middle stages of the final frame left no doubt.
“We’ve not played in so long,” said Patton coach Dennis Brittain. “We’ve only played one time since played (West Caldwell) the last time (on Jan. 7). It’s been almost a month, and we’ve had two weeks of practice and one game.
" ... Tonight, we came out and played as a team. Everybody played unselfish. And we executed, for the most part. We changed our gameplan a little bit to try to play zone this game, and it’s the best our zone has looked.”
Rutherford was on the receiving end of quite a bit of that generosity by his teammates, taking assists from Castle, Connor Rudisill and Jayden Powell to make shots at various points in the game. He finished with a game-high and career-high 27 points, including six 3-pointers, with five rebounds.
“It helps when my teammates have faith in me when they drive to just be able to kick it out to me and let me have the open shot,” Rutherford said. “It feels good because I’ve been shooting bad this year. I think I was like 2 for 10 before this game, so this feels really good.”
Castle, who finished with 19 points, four assists and three steals, thought the Panthers could have done an even better job of getting the ball into Rutherford’s hot hand.
“He went on a stretch where he didn’t miss any,” Castle said. “We’ve just got to do a better job as a team of getting the ball right back to him.”
Rudisill added 11 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Panthers.
Justin Epley can be reached at email@example.com or 828-432-8943.