The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 20, 2014

Westside extracts its revenge on Bridgeport

Renegades advance to semifinal meeting with R.C. Byrd on Friday

By Cam Huffman
Sports Editor

CHARLESTON — Westside found revenge for one of 2013’s biggest losses Wednesday night, and now it will go to work on avenging the most lopsided setback of 2014.

The fourth-seeded Renegades (20-6) started fast and ended with a flurry, holding off fifth-seeded Bridgeport  — which ended Westside’s season last year with a second-half comeback at the state tournament — 65-58 at the Charleston Civic Center in the Class AA quarterfinals.

The Renegades will now face top seeded Robert C. Byrd Friday at 1 p.m. in the semifinals. The undefeated Eagles beat Westside 76-54 on Feb. 14, the only double-digit loss for the Renegades all season.

“We take it personal,” said Justin Cogar, who has articles hanging in his locker to remind him of that loss. “We’ve been waiting for this rematch, and we’re going to be ready.”

After falling behind 16-4 in the first 3:30 of the contest — thanks to a furious Westside transition game — Bridgeport (18-8) never led, but the Indians definitely made it interesting.

Bridgeport outscored the Renegades 20-12 in the second quarter, cooling off the offense with a defensive switch and getting to the rim play after play on offense for easy buckets.

A John Wilfong layup as the halftime buzzer sounded pulled the Indians within five, 37-32 going into the locker room, and they were within 3, 59-56, with 43 seconds on the clock after Chase Robey nailed a clutch 2.

“I never doubted that we were going to get back in it, because I know how hard my kids play,” said Bridgeport’s first-year head coach Mike Robey. “They left everything out on the floor, and I couldn’t have been more proud of them.”

Westside, though, made its free throws down the stretch, as Will Fox and Corey Bowles stepped to the line with confidence and completed the job.

Fox, the Renegades’ 5-foot-10 junior point guard, had a huge night, finishing with 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

When other Westside players went cold in the second quarter, Fox found a way to get baskets when needed most, holding off the Bridgeport charge.

“I shot the ball pretty good, and I found the guys that were open,” said Fox of the effort his coach called one of the best all-around performances he’d seen. “I didn’t know I was that close to a triple-double, but I felt good.”

Inside, junior center Justin Cogar did his usual damage, scoring 17 points and pulling down 12 rebounds, helping the Renegades to a 43-26 edge on the boards. He was 8 for 11 from the field and blocked three shots.

Corey Bowles struggled from 3-point land, knocking down just 1 of 6 long balls, but he got to the line for seven points and finished with 22, to go along with eight rebounds.

“There’s no situation too big for these kids,” said Cook. “They don’t panic and they don’t get flustered. They’ve been in every possible situation.”

Bridgeport’s effort was led by junior John Wilfong, who scored a game-high 24 points. Dante Bonamico drove to the hole all game long, frustrating the Westside defense. He scored 14 points while grabbing seven rebounds. Senior Ryan Sprouse finished with 10.

“Give them a lot of credit,” said Cook. “They did some things that frustrated us and got back in it. But we withstood it and found a way to come out on top.”

The Renegades have now won four straight and seven of the last eight heading into Friday’s showdown.

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.