By JOEL COLEMAN
COLUMBUS – For three quarters Saturday, East Webster proved to be the better team in its game against West Lowndes.
The one quarter that the Wolverines faltered made all the difference.
East Webster led by 10 points early in the fourth quarter, but the Panthers finished the contest on a 21-4 run to upend the Wolverines 62-55 in the consolation game of the Class 2A, Region 2 Tournament at West Lowndes.
"We just gave up too many opportunities throughout the game," said East Webster head coach Corey Stidham. "A little basket here, a free throw here and an offensive board here. Against a good basketball team like that, you have to value every possession and make sure it happens."
For the majority of the game, Stidham's squad more than weathered the storm against a West Lowndes team playing on its home floor.
East Webster (15-13) led 11-8 after the first quarter and took a 28-21 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Jamie McKee paced the Wolverines' balanced first-half attack, scoring all of his nine points prior to the intermission.
Ledrick Patterson and Miguel Graham each tallied seven points in the first half for East Webster.
Patterson finished with a team-high 17 points while Graham ended the game with 15.
"The first two quarters, (West Lowndes) was playing like they didn't care about it," said Patterson. "They were just walking around and stuff, and we were trying to put it on them. Then, start of the third quarter, they started waking up and just heated up in their own gym."
West Lowndes (13-8) ultimately had to solve the Wolverines' zone defense to find a way to battle back.
A Panthers offense that had just one player score more than five points before halftime finished with three players in double figures.
Tyquan Lucious led West Lowndes with 23 total points, 11 of which came in the Panthers' fourth-quarter surge.
Antonio Wilson finished with 18 points for West Lowndes while Deandra Lewis added 11.
"Personally, I think we kind of rocked (West Lowndes) to sleep a little bit with the zone," said Stidham. "They just picked up and hit some big shots at the end and we had a couple of key turnovers. That's basketball.
"They're about as athletic as you get. They've got quickness, speed, shooters, and jumps. I think my guys did a great job of taking care of that."
Ultimately though, the Wolverines' struggles in the final period proved to be their downfall.
After East Webster's Xavier Moye converted a three-point play with a basket and a free throw in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter to put his team up 49-39, the Wolverines mustered just six points the rest of the way behind individual baskets from Ty Hendrix, Charles Guyton and Graham.
Meanwhile, the Panthers clawed all the way back, taking the lead for good on a Lucious three-pointer with just under 4 minutes to play.
"We were talking in the zone," said Patterson. "We were telling each other where the shooters were. Then, a couple of (West Lowndes players) were driving and we were losing the shooters and they were making shots."
With the loss, East Webster now enters the Class 2A playoffs as Region 2's No. 4 seed.
That designation will put the Wolverines on the road Tuesday against the Region 1 champion, which is either Baldwyn or Ashland depending upon the result of those two team's late Saturday title game.
While his own club suffered through a tough couple of days in West Lowndes with Saturday's defeat and Friday's loss to Calhoun City, Stidham says he's not worried about any type of hangover effect as postseason play heats up next week.
As evidence, Stidham cited his team's Saturday performance.
"I think my guys stepped up after (Friday's loss) and no doubt made a statement," said Stidham. "I never doubted them because that's the type of kids they are.
"(Next week) we'll line up against whoever it is. You've got to play your best every night. Whoever it is, we'll give them our best shot."