DELAWARE – It’s a great feeling for a basketball coach when a player learns from a previous mistake.
Senior Jwan Lyles showed that kind of growth on the defensive end of Delaware Hayes’ 56-55 win over Westerville Central in the first round of the Division I boys basketball district tournament Saturday afternoon.
Senior Terin Kinsway made the second of two free throws to give the 20th-seeded Pacers the lead with 4.2 seconds left.
“Coach always tells us that pressure is a facade,” Kinsway said. “I missed the first one, but I still didn’t feel too much pressure. I just thought back to all the hours shooting free throws and all the work we put in.”
“The pressure that you are putting on yourself – that comes from you,” Blackburn said. “So, if you’re choosing to help yourself – why would you put any extra pressure on yourself? If you put in the time like he has, then that should be just like any other free throw.”
Central advanced the ball just beyond half court before using a timeout with 2.3 seconds remaining.
Chaz Dixon cut through the lane and caught the ball on the right elbow, tried to drive left and bobbled momentarily before scooping a shot underneath an outstretched Lyles that found its way into the basket.
But it was waived off and Hayes held on for a win to avenge a loss to the Warhawks in the first round of last year’s tournament.
“(Jwan) had the mindset to switch it because he has more length than me and he can affect the ball-handler more,” Kinsway said. “So, he had the court-savvy to switch that and I’m glad he did. I don’t think anyone else could have played better defense (in that situation).”
Blackburn recalled a similar situation for the Pacers (17-6) in last year’s game at Hilliard Darby where Lyles and Addison Harvey missed a switch that led to a game-winning layup in the final seconds.
“It was pretty much the same play,” Blackburn said. “They were supposed to switch and they didn’t. It was a communication thing. Today, I thought everybody stayed solid and contested.”
Central got what it was looking for on the final play, according to coach Kevin Martin.
“We knew they’d be in man and we had a shooter in each corner,” he said. “We were going to go to our best player at that point. We ran a down screen for another shooter up top and flashed the ball and got (Dixon) in a one-on-one situation. He’s a great one-on-one basketball player. Whether (the shot) was good or not – they executed and that’s all you can ask for.”
The Pacers led most of the way thanks to a 19-2 run that started late in the first quarter.
Nate Griggs scored the first six points of the rally, Kinsway followed with the next five and the two traded 3-pointers before Griggs found Jack Weller for a layup underneath to cap it with 1:41 left in the half.
Kinsway led all scorers with 27 points and added six rebounds. Griggs backed the effort with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“The other guys just had confidence in us and we just fed off that,” Griggs said.
Hayes led by as much as 12 before a Dixon layup pulled Central within 28-18 at the break.
Dixon took over from there for the Warhawks with 21 of his 25 points coming in a back-and-forth second half.
Tyler Beckel scored nine points on the strength of a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. The latter one pulled the Warhawks within three before Dixon cut it to 51-50 with 3:59 left.
Beckel finished with 15 points and Tyler Combest had six rebounds and five assists for the 24th-seeded Warhawks (10-13).
The Pacers responded with a Griggs basket and a Kinsway dunk off a long feed from Addison Harvey to push the lead to 55-50. But Kinsway hung on the rim and was called for a technical foul.
“I thought it showed a lot of character for Terin with how he responded,” Blackburn said. “He didn’t complain, wasn’t whining or making excuses – he just moved on. Down the stretch when we called his number – he got to the rack and got to the free throw line and made the free throw.”
Dixon made three of four free throws on the ensuing possession and added two more after an empty Hayes possession to tie the game 55-55 with 31.8 seconds left to set up the final sequence.
Hayes played with only six players because Ryan Smudz was out with an illness. The Pacers were fortunate that the game hadn’t gone to overtime because Harvey got hit in the face in the first half and played the second half in a protective mask and Griggs fouled out in the final minute.
“Playing six guys – we knew it was going to be tough,” Blackburn said. “We told our team that this was going to be a game where we’d have to outlast them … just be tougher than them. To play a team that’s that athletic and physical and strong with six guys in 32 minutes says a lot about the character of our guys.”
Hayes travels to 13th-seeded Olentangy Orange in the second round Friday night at 7 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.