WEST HAVEN >> With his team looking to gain some respect from around the league, West Haven coach Harry Bosley knew the Westies would have to earn it. Rallying in overtime to defeat Career certainly is a step in the right direction.
Behind 30 points from junior Josiah Steinman and 13 more from sophomore Marquel Bookert, West Haven overcame a blown late lead to defeat the Panthers 68-63 in a Southern Connecticut Conference Quinnipiac Division contest at West Haven High Friday evening.
With the win, not only did the Westies improve to 6-3 with their fourth straight win, but they vaulted atop of the Quinnipiac Division ahead of Career.
“We played a great game,” Bosley said. “The kids wanted it bad. To be on top of the division is extremely important to us. It will give us a reputation. That’s a good team over there. These kids played hard.”
The win did not come easy for the Westies. They held a 34-22 lead in the third quarter but watched as Career chipped away through the final 12 minutes of the game.
When Career’s Tamar Williams drained a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left in the fourth quarter to even the game at 56, the Westies needed an extra four minutes to pull out the win.
Steinman scored West Haven’s first eight points of the extra session, including draining a 3-pointer with 2:25 left to give West Haven a 61-58 lead. Steinman then hit 3-of-4 free throws to put the Westies up by six before fouling out seconds later.
“This is new to me, but I can play through it,” Steinman said of playing in front of a boisterous crowd. “This is a really big win for us. The team worked hard. We really wanted it. We were able to pull through at the end.”
The Panthers got as close as 66-63 with 27 seconds to go on a basket by Kyle-Hasim Daniels, but a pair of free throws by Bookert in the final seconds sealed the win for West Haven.
“We gave up the lead, but we were able to hit our free throws,” Bosley said. “The guys came right back at them. Marquel Bookert hit some huge free throws in overtime to seal the deal.”
While the win was a big one for the Westies, it was particularly disappointing for Career coach Larry Kelley and his team. The Panthers (6-3) came into the contest riding a six-game winning streak, but were unable to get on track in the first half.
Turnovers and missed shots inside defined the first quarter for Career as the Panthers did not hit their first field goal of the game until 2:20 remained in the opening quarter.
“We put ourselves in a situation like that where you come into their house and they are ready to play,” Kelley said.
“There are people who have played here who have made this program what it is. They (West Haven) are going to play over the top of their heads to win this game. I am not taking anything away from them. They played hard and won this game. But, we did not defend, we had turnovers, and there were no leaders out there for us tonight.”
With the Westies up 21-20 in the second quarter, Mufee Cooper drained a 3-pointer for the Westies to increase the lead to four. The Westies scored the last seven points of the opening half, four coming from Latrell Best, to give West Haven a 31-22 lead at the break.
The Panthers answered with a 7-0 run, capped by Anthony Calder’s bucket to get within 34-29. A pair of free throws by Steinman had West Haven up 43-35 late in the third quarter, before Career rallied in the final four minutes of the game.
A 3-pointer by Daniels got the Panthers within 49-48 with 3:50 left in regulation, before another 3-pointer by Daniel Ampofo evened the game at 51 just 25 seconds later.
Daniels led Career with 25 points, Ampofo had 16, and Calder and Tyquis Burney McKeithen each added eight in the loss.
Jaden Jones scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds in the win for West Haven. Justin Santos pulled down 11 rebounds for the Westies.
WEST HAVEN 68, CAREER 63 (OT)
(at West Haven)
Career 8 14 16 18 7 – 63
West Haven 11 20 12 13 12 – 68
Kyle Daniels 9 1-4 25, Danny Ampofo 5 4-4 18, Tyquise Burney 1 6-8 8, Anthony Calder 2 4-6 8, Daquajuan Walker 1 0-0 2, Jalen Jones 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19 15-22 63
WEST HAVEN (68)
Joe Steinman 8 11-12 30, Marquel Bookert 3 4-4 13, Jaden Jones 3 2-4 8, Latrell Best 1 4-8 6, Jamal Pate 1 4-4 6, Mufee Cooper 1 0-0 3, Justin Santos 1 0-1 2. Totals: 18 25-33 68
3-point goals: Career 10 (Daniels 6, Ampofo 4); West Haven 7 (Steinman 3, Bookert 3, Cooper 1); Records: Career 6-3; West Haven 6-3