WALLED LAKE >> On its opening night of the season, Walled Lake Western produced two things of value for coach Dennis Butcher – a victory and a first-hand glimpse of what happens to teams that lose their focus.
The Warriors built a 24-point lead against Pontiac Notre Dame Prep on Thursday, but allowed that sizable advantage to dwindle to a mere five points in the final minute. The late surge by the Fighting Irish ultimately ran out of time, however, allowing Western to emerge with a 61-54 victory.
“This learning experience had very little to do with basketball and X’s and O’s,” Butcher said. “Did we make some mistakes? Yes. But this was more about a state of mind and having a consistent effort over 32 minutes. We went completely away from that in this game and that’s what a team has to learn.”
Boasting an entirely new starting five from a year ago, Western displayed talent and ability when things were rolling early on. An 11-0 scoring run in the first quarter helped establish early distance on the scoreboard. The Warriors led 27-15 at halftime.
Senior Tayshaun Jones paced all scorers with 20 points for Western, while junior Noah Megyesi contributed 10 points, and junior Zach Peterson connected on three 3-pointers as part of his 15-point effort.
“It was good to see Zach (shoot well) and to feed off of his 3-pointers a little bit,” Butcher said. “It was good to see Tayshaun get to the rim and create for his teammates.”
Notre Dame Prep began cutting into its 24-point deficit late in the third quarter when it ended the stanza on an 8-0 run.
A 3-pointer from the corner by senior Max Stowe brought the Fighting Irish within five points in the last minute, but Jones sealed the game at the free-throw line for Western, going 4-for-4 at the end.
In all, Notre Dame Prep concluded the game on a 30-14 scoring run. The Fighting Irish (0-2) were playing without three seniors, two of which start, in their second game of the young season.
“They played with the intensity and energy that we wanted to in the second part of the third quarter and the fourth quarter,” Notre Dame Prep coach Whitney Robinson said. “We called a couple timeouts and yelled and screamed and all of that good stuff and they responded well. It gave us a chance to win the game, but when you dig such a deep hole, you have to play near-perfect basketball to win.”
Up next, Western will play Saturday against Detroit University Prep, while Notre Dame Prep will debut at home against Livonia Stevenson on Tuesday.