ELIZABETHTOWN - In a rematch of the game that knocked Westport out of the MVAC playoffs last year, it was the Eagles who came out on top this time, but not without a strong challenge from Schroon Lake.
Undefeated in conference play, Westport rallied to defeat last year's MVAC champions 57-45 and clinch the conference title Feb. 20.
The Eagles missed several shots early on, but relied on good defense and rebounding to keep the game close.
Early foul trouble kept the Westport's leading scorer, Nathan Gay, out for much of the second quarter. That's when the Wildcats, led by sharpshooting guard Ethan Tyrrell, found their rhythm and built a 22-18 lead going into halftime.
"Ethan Tyrrell is always a weapon," said Westport head coach Brad Rascoe. "At some points he can singlehandedly beat you if you let him."
Schroon Lake carried that momentum into the second half and at one point increased their lead to 10, but the Eagles battled back to take a 38-36 lead by the end of the third quarter.
"The first half we came out a little sluggish. They wanted it more than we did," said Rascoe. "The second half we came out and played a whole new ball game, and got some of the easy shots to fall."
Eagles guard Bo McKinley scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half while Gay scored 12 of his 14 to go along with 10 rebounds. Curtis Mead added another double-double for Westport with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
"We started running the ball into our big men more, and we were able to get the offensive momentum," Rascoe added.
Tyrrell led all scorers with 25 for Schroon Lake, including five 3-pointers. Taylor Gath added 11 points for the Wildcats.
Rascoe said the challenging victory brought some important lessons for his team, whose only loss came in a non-conference game against Harwood, Vt.
"I think they learned that they can't just step on the court and expect to win," said Rascoe. "They have to earn it."