PORTER TOWNSHIP -- Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good.
Fortune was on Westville's side Friday at Hinkey Gym, where missed free throws, turnovers and poor shot selection undermined the Blackhawks, who still managed to escape with a 55-54 overtime victory over Boone Grove, in spite of themselves.
"It's a learning experience for sure, making plays at the right time," Westville point guard Jace Woods said. "There were times we threw the ball away. There was no reason for it. It's little things. Winning this game doesn't mean anything if we don't learn from it."
Woods, whose 16 points topped the Blackhawks (3-1, 2-0 Porter County Conference), made four free throws in the extra session, but two missed foul shots by Josh DeChantal with 5.9 seconds to play left the door ajar for Boone. Westville caught a break when Cooper Jones pulled up and launched from 40 feet with a couple seconds still left, a heave that was nowhere close.
"We had a chance to win it," Wolves coach Matt McKay said. "It was such a scramble, it probably would have been better if they made the free throw. We would've been more organized. It wouldn't have been chaos off a make. It's really who we wanted to have the ball. (Jones) just lost track of time. He certainly could have taken another dribble, maybe two. It's a cliche, but I told kids we're at the point where we've just got to learn how to win."
The sigh of relief from Westville coach Drew Eubank was tempered by the reality that his team has been playing with fare late in games.
"It's nice to win but at the same time, I told these guys, if we don't learn from this, it would've been better to lose," Eubank said. "At times, we played well enough to win, but our composure down the stretch, we didn't deserve to win. It's something we have to improve. That's three close games in a row and we've been fortunate to be on the winning side, but I'm afraid we aren't learning enough."
Westville led 46-41 in the last minute of regulation after a LaQunn Wilson steal and layup but Wolves freshman Trey Steinhilber drilled a deep 3 and after DeChantal split free throws, Woods fouled Steinhilber on a 3, and he swished them all. The Blackhawks then turned the ball over on the inbounds and fouled Kevin Josifoski with 7.3 left. He made the first and missed the second, and Preston Lake's corner 3 rimmed off for Westville, sending the game to OT.
"They know we made some mistakes," Eubank said. "They've got to understand we had timeouts. We were talking about being up two scores inside of two minutes, we want layups and free throws. That doesn't mean splitting five defenders and contorting to shoot."
The Blackhawks never trailed in the extra period, Wilson scoring on a drive in between Woods' foul shots.
"Wilson made some real timely plays," Eubank said. "He only made one mistake and I think he made the next three plays for us. He plays really hard. He's a really solid defender. He has a nose for the ball. He puts us on a rollercoaster, but when the game's on line, he makes plays. I'm proud of their fight. They could've given up a couple times when (Boone) made runs. It's a resilient group. We've just got to get better at shot selection, exploring our offense. It's a good game to have as long as we still learn from it."
Woods went 8-of-10 at the line.
"I was confident in my free throws," he said. "I like having the ball in my hands when it comes down to that. (Eubank) said (before overtime), it's a clean start, don't worry about anything that happened, start from zero."
DeChantal scored 14 points and nabbed 10 boards, converting three putbacks in the third quarter when Westville overcame a slight deficit. Elliot Bogart also had 10 boards and Wilson seven as the Blackhawks retained the PCC Keg traveling trophy.
"As long as we've got that Keg, we're going to get everybody's best shot," Eubank said. "It was a fun environment. Steinhilber's going to be really tough. I can't believe he's a freshman. Boone Grove's going to win a good amount of games."
Westville 55, Boone Grove 54 (OT)
Jace Woods led the Blackhawks with 16 points.