Boys Basketball: Willie Conner sets the tone as Crane holds on to top Westinghouse
Updated: January 11, 2012 9:17PM
Willie Conner is his team’s emotional leader. He sets the example.
“I knew I had to come out and be aggressive in going to the hoop and not taking jump shots,” the senior Crane forward said.
Conner scored 16 of his team-best 21 points in the first half and the host No. 15 Cougars withstood Westinghouse’s three-point barrage to knock out the Warriors 85-74 Wednesday.
The game marked a reunion for first-year Crane coach Chris Head, who directed Westinghouse to the 2002 Class AA state championship and the 2000 Class AA runner-up.
“It wasn’t strange,” Head said. “But the game got me to thinking about some of the past great Crane and Westinghouse battles.”
Conner played limited minutes in the second half after picking up foul trouble. He eventually fouled out with 4:50 to play. He added seven rebounds and four steals as Crane built a 24-point first-half lead.
Senior point guard Khailfani Nichols, who missed the previous four games with a shoulder injury, contributed 19 points and five assists for Crane (8-3, 2-1 Red-West). Nichols scored eight in the first quarter en route to a 13-point burst in the first half.
The 29 combined points scored by Conner and Nichols in the first half helped the Cougars race out to a 49-28 lead at the break.
Senior Westinghouse guard Ricky Battles kept the Warriors close in scoring a career-best 31 points for the Warriors (7-6, 1-4). He led a three-point barrage that enabled the Warriors to narrow a 24-point second quarter deficit to seven late in the game.
The Warriors drilled eight three-pointers in the second half. Battles hit four of his five three-pointers in the second half.
“We let them get way too many open looks in the second half, and we didn’t play as well, so that’s something we have to work on,” Conner said.
Nichols settled the team in Conner’s absence.
“I had to be the leader, being the only senior on the floor for most of the second half, and Willie talked to me about staying focused,” Nichols said.
Junior forward Courtney Thomas added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Cougars. Kendel Sidney scored eight of his 10 points in the second half for Crane.
Dequantis Jackson hit four three-pointers in adding 12 points for the Warriors.