TRAVERSE CITY — For one quarter, it looked like Gaylord had Traverse City West’s number.
Then, for the rest of Wednesday’s boys basketball game, all the numbers favored the Titans.
The most important, of course, is the final score of 64-33, which gave West its sixth win in nine games after starting the season 1-7.
And on Senior Night to boot.
“It’s kind of a mixed feeling,” said senior Jonny Wheelock, who had 13 points and five rebounds. “I was excited to be here, but right now, I don’t want it to be over. This has been my life since I was little and now it’s slowly dwindling away. But we still have a chance to have a home game in the playoffs, so that’s something to look forward to and get better until then.”
West’s other two seniors — Ty Troxell and Tristan Roman — were also in the starting lineup.
Roman scored 11 points and Troxell added two, converting an Alex Scott pass into a lay-up for a 6-0 lead.
“I don’t want it to end,” Roman said. “It’s what I’ve been doing since I was a little kid. It’s a roller coaster of emotions. It’s tough to see it end, but I’m glad we went out like that.”
West can earn one more home game by advancing in district play past the same Blue Devils team in Gaylord. The Titans would then host Sault Ste. Marie on March 5.
Gaylord (3-13, 0-10 BNC) led 8-6 after the first eight-minute quarter. West couldn’t get its shots to drop.
“I don’t know if the senior (night) thing is the main issue, but guys are really excited, especially those senior guys for their last game at home,” Titans coach Greg Immink said. “Maybe a little bit of the nerves got in on a few of those shots that our guys normally make.”
The Blue Devils led 14-8 early in the second before West got its swagger back with an 11-0 run capped by four straight Roman points to take a 19-14 lead.
West wouldn’t trail again.
After a Steven Fitzek reverse lay-up stopped Gaylord’s bleeding for a bit, the Titans went on a 9-0 spurt — capped off by a long Deion Dyal jumper with less than a second left — to close out the first half and take a 29-16 lead into the intermission.
“We just hit that spot where we thought, ‘If we keep playing like this, we’re going to lose,’” Roman said. “We can’t lose on Senior Night, so we pulled ourselves together and came out firing.”
The second half didn’t get much better for Gaylord. The Blue Devils scored two of the first three buckets, but West reeled off a 16-0 run with buckets by six different players to put the Titans up 47-20 and leave little doubt in the game’s end result.
West’s lead wouldn’t shrink to less than 20 the rest of the way.
Gaylord was led by 16 points each from Fitzek and Collin Watters. Stephan Sheppard added 11 for West while Scott finished with nine points and four assists.
Immink admitted he had a little apprehension coming into the game.
The Titans (7-10, 6-4 Big North Conference) were coming off an overtime loss to the BNC’s top team, Alpena, and playing the league’s last-place squad just prior to their rivalry game against Traverse City Central on Friday. Throw in Senior Night festivities, and it had “trap game” written all over it.
“There’s always that worry,” Immink said. “You came off playing the No. 1 team in the league. Our guys really left it on the floor Monday night. It’s just really unfortunate we didn’t come away with that victory. It was a pretty devastating loss for everybody involved. Of course, on Friday, it’s one of — if not the — biggest game of the year for our guys.”
West visits TC Central on Friday.
“It was close when they played here a couple weeks ago,” Roman said. “We’ve been preparing for that game, and it’s always one of the most fun games, especially over there. It’s nice to beat them at home. But we’re going to have to come out firing.”
Gaylord won the junior varsity game 60-56, led by 23 points from Jack Korte and 20 by Jakovon Pryor-McCovery. West (14-3) was paced by 18 from Sam Alexander, Josh Roman with 14 and 13 by Nick Brzezinski.
TC West (13-3) took the freshman game 62-44 behind 13 points by Carson Rosa, nine each by Andrew Gillings and Caleb Corwin and eight by Ben Rhodes. The Devils were led by 10 from Daniel Goodale and nine by Levi Irish.