A slow start offensively gave way when Olympic College’s Josiah Westbrook helped break the Rangers out of a scoring slump in the second half of Saturday’s 91-81 Northwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball game.
It’s possible the Rangers six-day holiday layoff was too much for one of the hottest teams in the NWAC this season. But only in the first half. Olympic (9-2) saw its offense get going in the second half as it was 14-of-29 from the field, 17 points coming from Westbrook.
While Pierce (2-9) showed a determination to win that Olympic maybe wasn’t expecting, the Rangers weren’t going to be denied
“We’re gaining experience as we’re going,” Olympic coach Craig Murray said. “We’re getting to a point where our defense is getting better, and as we go along, you’ll see that come down a little bit. And that’s what’s going to win you big games.
Westbrook, who finished with 27 points and eight assists, was one of four starters to score in double figures for the Rangers. David Tserger added 20 points, Sam Gagliardi had 17 points, and Tobyn Lawson chipped in 14 points.
A tight first half — Olympic didn’t gain a lead until Sam Gagliardi’s three-pointer made it 45-43 — remained as the teams went into the locker room tied at 47.
It stayed close early in the second half until Westbrook drained a 3 — he was 4-of-7 for the game — to make it 53-49, but Pierce never went away. The Raiders made clutch shots, seemingly able to weave in and out of OC’s defense at will and tied the game at 67-67.
But a Westbrook layup that split the defenders was followed by another corner 3 by the agile sophomore guard at the baseline to make it 76-67 and effectively took the wind out of Pierce’s sails.
“Being able to have stops at the end of the game, that’s what’s big,” Murray said.
Olympic College will look to continue its North Region-leading play Wednesday when it hosts South Puget Sound at 7 p.m.