The Westbrook boys’ basketball team had a historic season this winter in which it won 25 games, claimed its first Shoreline Conference championship, and then advanced to the Class S State Tournament final for the first time in program history. Unfortunately for the Knights, they came up one victory shy of winning a state title as Westbrook’s thrilling postseason ride came to an end with a hard-fought, 61-52 loss to Trinity Catholic in the Class S championship game at Mohegan Sun Arena on March 18. Liam Bell had 23 points, while fellow senior captain Cory Muckle scored 15 points for the Knights, who finished the year with a record of 25-3.
Westbrook had its hands full dealing with the Crusaders’ size and physicality and trailed 49-39 heading into the fourth quarter. However, the top-seeded Knights rallied and outscored Trinity Catholic 10-2 through the first six minutes of the final frame to cut it to 51-50 with 2:24 to play. In the end, though, Trinity Catholic finished the game on an 10-2 run to prevail 61-52 and capture its seventh state title.
“We just got outmanned tonight. They were physical, big guys. They defended well and they jumped well,” said Westbrook Head Coach Jeff Beeman. “It’s hard to rebound against guys who are jumping a foot higher than you, but credit to our guys—they put in the effort.
The Class S final featured plenty of supporters representing each side and they vigorously made their presence known as Westbrook and Trinity Catholic tipped off at Mohegan Sun. The first quarter saw even play by both teams with the lead changing hands six times, and the 6th-seeded Crusaders held an 18-17 edge after one. The second quarter included four more lead changes until Trinity Catholic (20-6) began to pull ahead midway through the frame on its way to taking a 36-29 halftime lead.
Throughout the postseason, Coach Beeman and Knights came out of halftime having made a few adjustments that spurred Westbrook to victory. However, this time around, the Knights didn’t have an answer for the Crusaders, who built on their lead to hold a 49-39 advantage through three quarters. The Knights turned up their defensive intensity in the fourth and kept Trinity Catholic off the board for the first 4:28 of the period. At that point, Westbrook was down 51-45. With 2:24 left in the game, the Knights had trimmed Trinity Catholic’s lead to 51-50 following two free throws from Bell. On the Crusaders’ next possession, Muckle came up with a huge steal and dished it to Bell for a fast-break. On Bell’s layup attempt, Peter Galgano came in hard for a block and got a jump-ball call that gave the back to Trinity Catholic—which had the possession arrow in its favor—with two minutes remaining. The Crusaders followed with a basket to make it 53-50 with 1:47 to play and, following a missed three-pointer by Westbrook, Trinity Catholic sank two free throws at the other end to make it 55-50. The Crusaders hit one more field goal and a few more at the line to seal the 61-52 victory.
In addition to his 23 points, Bell also had eight rebounds and two steals for the Knights. Muckle scored 15 points to go along with four steals. Senior center Dave Amendola was giving up size on the inside, but was still a presence in the paint with his 11 rebounds and two blocks.
Coach Beeman tried everything he could to put Westbrook in position for the win and, although the Knights nearly came all the way back from their 10-point deficit, it just wasn’t quite enough to pull off the victory.
“We tried to keep it in close,” said Beeman. “We got it back to where we needed to. We pulled within one, but couldn’t get over the hump.”
Even with plenty of preparation and game-planning going into the contest, Coach Beeman knew that Trinity Catholic’s athleticism would provide for a tough matchup for his team.
“Their guards were fast and we had to stretch out our defense and it opened up these wide passing lanes. They broke us down on the drive and we didn’t have as much secondary help as we needed,” he said. “We made adjustments or at least we tried to. We were adjusting our defense because we knew we couldn’t play them man to man. We used three different zone packages, but we just didn’t have an answer.”
When all was said and done this year, even though Westbrook lost in the state final, Coach Beeman knows that the Knights will always be able to look back at this landmark campaign and feel proud about what they achieved.
“Greatest season we’ve ever had,” said Beeman. “Best team I’ve ever coached and I’ve coached a lot of years, including all my teams at Hand.”
From the Sidelines
Earlier in the week, Westbrook defeated 8th-seeded St. Paul 86-68 in the Class S State Tournament quarterfinals at home on March 13. The Knights grabbed an 18-11 advantage after the first quarter and led 34-27 at halftime. Westbrook outscored St. Paul 25-16 in the third on its way to the victory. Liam Bell scored 29 points to go with 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Muckle had 25 points and four steals. Austin Herzy added 14 points with eight boards, plus junior Jack Hayes chipped in with six points for Westbrook, which shot 54 percent from the field and 94 percent at the free throw line.
Playing in their first state semifinal in program history, the Knights dispatched No. 12 seed Aerospace 80-51 at Polson Middle School in Madison on March 16. Westbrook stormed out to double-digit lead in the first quarter and was up 18-9 after one, but Aerospace came back with a big run to take a one-point edge during the second. However, the Knights controlled the rest of the period to hold a 35-30 halftime advantage and dominated the second half by outscoring Aerospace 45-21. Muckle hit six three-pointers and scored 29 points, while Bell drained five from downtown and netted 20 points. Dave Amendola had 17 points with 10 rebounds to aid the Knights.
The Knights’ roster features senior captain guard/forward Bell, senior captain guard Muckle, senior guard Phil Hartzell, senior guard Herzy, senior center Max Morris, senior forward Matt Ossa, senior guard Nick Perregaux, senior center Amendola, junior forward Vincent Dyer, junior guard Jason Cordon, and junior guard Hayes.