Westminster, sparked by guards Ryan Sackeld and Jon-David Byers, thwarted visiting North County at practically every turn last night, and took away a 55-49 victory, its fourth in a row.
Although Westminster (4-2) led from the final minute of the first quarter, every time it opened some daylight, the Knights (2-3) would come barging back into contention.
The last time was on a follow-up basket by Chuck Willis that brought the visitors within 49-47 with 2: 20 left to play. After timeout, Westminster went to Byers and he responded with his fifth three-point basket of the night.
Sackeld made one free throw, but freshman Corey Bowie, who joined four juniors in the Knights' starting lineup, came back with a shot in the lane, and it was 53-49 with 36 seconds to go. Sackeld was fouled on the in-bounds pass and made two to wrap up the scoring.
Aside from that basket, North County had two turnovers and missed three shots from the field in the final 2: 20.
"We missed a lot of shots late," North County coach Michael Francis said. "It seemed every time we got close, our defense would lose one of their players, and he would be the one to hurt us."
Most of the time, this turned out to be the two first-year varsity players, Byers, a sophomore, and Sackeld, a junior.
Byers' point total exceeded his previous best by a dozen. Sackeld added eight points, but more importantly did a terrific job of handling the ball against tough full-court pressure from North County.
Each was also the "1" in the 1-3-1 zone defense the Owls used much of the way, with Sackeld the chaser along the back line.
"Ryan did a great job against strong pressure. They put a body on him and it was pretty physical," Westminster coach Dave Byers said. "For them, I thought they were talented and athletic. [Mark Jennings] and [Willis] can shoot."
Jennings led the Knights with 18 points, followed by Jerome Goodman, 13, and Willis, nine.
Westminster's lineup at the end of the game was about as young as North County's, with a senior, two juniors and two sophomores on the court.
"We haven't established how we can play," Dave Byers said of his team. "We're trying to find ourselves."
Westminster also got good work from its committee of big people -- seniors Shawn Cook, Andy Leister, and Nick Farver, plus junior Nick Hohenwater.
Jennings rallied the Knights from a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit with two baskets, one a three-pointer, and two foul shots that helped slice the gap to 49-45. "We just couldn't get over the hump," Francis said.
Pub Date: 12/22/98