Despite being held to two baskets in the fourth quarter, White Knoll hustled its way to a 53-46 victory at Brookland-Cayce on Friday.
"I thought we played hard, but we didn't play smart," Timberwolves coach Bret Jones said after the close victory against a team they beat by 39 points last week.
"I was a little worried about a letdown, but this wasn't a letdown. We just didn't play our best game," Jones said.
De'Quan Grooms, who led the Timberwolves with 11 points, said they were confident in their ability to hold off a Bearcats comeback, even as Brookland-Cayce chopped White Knoll's lead from 12 points to six in the third quarter.
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"We made some mistakes, we couldn't stop the ball, but then after the mistakes, we played real smart," Grooms said.
Though Jones felt the Timberwolves' offense fell short of its potential, White Knoll started out like gangbusters.
The Bearcats stood shoulder to shoulder with White Knoll in the paint, but their rebounding efforts did not measure up in the first half. Brookland-Cayce's struggles on the boards were most pronounced on the defensive glass, and second-chance baskets accounted for six of White Knoll's 20 first-quarter points.
"They outhustled us," Bearcats coach Ricky Bouknight said. "They got all the hustle balls tonight. We just couldn't get the key rebound, that key loose ball tonight."
That would not have made as big of a difference if Brookland-Cayce had made their shots from the start. But the Bearcats were 3-of-11 from the floor in the first quarter and started the second 0-for-5 as they slipped into a 13-point deficit.
With 4:44 to go in the half, Vince Odom's layup touched off a Bearcat rally. Jonathan Rumph hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and John Coughlin tipped in one to make it a three-point game. But White Knoll cut that run off, holding the Bearcats to two points in the final four minutes of the half.
White Knoll led by nine going into the third period. Rumph, who led the game with 17 points - 12 off 3-point baskets - put up 10 points in the quarter, but the Bearcats never got closer than six.
White Knoll held out with strong defense and scored four of its eight points off free throws in the final period.
The result was encouraging for Bouknight, who could see improvement in his team on both sides of the ball despite the loss.
For Jones, it was a sign of how much work is yet to be done.
"We're going to have to work on playing smart, all five guys on the floor have to be playing smart for it to come together," Jones said.
W: White 7, Knots 5, Creed 8, Vaughn 7, DeQuan Grooms 11, Johnson 7, Piper 2, Singleton 6. B: Barber 8, Lieberman 8, Coughlin 4, Rumph 17, Collins 5, Odom 4.