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East holds off West in county battle

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Missiles get first victory in series since 1999

By Todd Martin

As the horn sounded and the crowd went nuts at East Middle School Thursday, it was an unfamiliar scene for East and West middle schools boys’ basketball teams.

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East grabbed an early lead and held off the Warriors all night for a 45-40 victory, its first over the intra-county rival in 10 years.

West had cut the lead to two with about one minute to go and had the ball.

“In hindsight I probably should’ve called a timeout,” West Coach Tim Pardee said. “But we had the ball in transition, and I knew they were going to play a zone defense so I thought I’d let them go. [Deandre] Farris got a good shot in the lane – it was what we wanted – but it just didn’t go.”

The Missiles then held on from the line over the final minute.

“We thought we could compete with them,” East Coach J.R. Wiley said. “We played them pretty well at our place last year, and our kids were pretty confident.”

The Missiles confidence was evident from the start.

East jumped out to a 6-0 lead, and led, 10-6, when West’s Lawson Page hit a three-quarter-court shot at the buzzer to trim the lead to 10-9.

The Warriors then grabbed their first lead early in the second quarter, 12-10, but East answered with a 10-0 run, regaining the lead and taking control.

East seemed to have an answer every time the Warriors tried to rally.

“I thought we defended and rebounded well,” Wiley said. “Our transition defense was good, and against West you have to get back on defense quickly, or they’ll make you pay.”

West’s Pardee said the Missiles' defense was the key.

“They did a good job in transition, but their zone defense gave us trouble all night,” he said. “Obviously, we didn’t spend enough time on our zone offense, because we had way too many turnovers.”

That defense -- and East’s relentless work on the boards -- kept West from gaining any momentum.

“We did enough to hang in there, but there were a couple of guys from East that set the tone all night,” Pardee said. “[Jayon] Winstead was very tough all night, [Zac] Wiley had a good game inside, and [Dalton] Thompson was all over the court.”

Winstead led the Missiles with 17 points, and Wiley said his guard was on fire.

“It was his birthday, and it was probably the best game I’ve ever seen him play,” the coach said. “He ran the point, controlled the game and kept his composure. He did a great job not getting rattled against their pressure.”

Thompson chipped in with 14 points, and Wiley and Kipp Moore each had seven.

East is 3-2 this season, with both losses coming to Henry County.

Brent Kidwell came off the bench for West to score nine points and share the scoring lead with Page, and Farris added six.

West dropped to 1-1, but has since picked up two more victories to move to 3-1.

Now, West will have to wait until Jan. 11 for the rematch at its gym.

“It’s always tough to play at East,” Pardee said. “We just have to move on and work on our zone offense and cutting down on turnovers. I know they’ll be ready for us when we see them again.”

Wiley said he knows the next game will be even closer.

“Coach Pardee does a good job at West,” he said. “I think the rematch in January will be even more exciting.”