The Westover Christian Academy Varsity Boys basketball team took to the floor for the first time in over two weeks Tuesday night against the Ospreys of Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy in the Virginia Association of Christian Athletics state championship game, but ultimately came up short in a 40-36 loss.
The two teams took very different routes to the championship game as Smith Mountain Lake beat fellow Southeast District foes Temple and Timberlake, while Westover had both of their opponents, Grace Christian and Regents, forfeit due to simultaneous COVID-19 positive tests.
The two championship contenders split the season series with each team winning on their own home court.
The first quarter was a feeling out process for both teams before WCA was able to build an 11-8 lead after one quarter on the strength of nine points by Josh Lewis.
The second quarter was a defensive slugfest with neither team doing much offensively and combining for only three field goals scored. The two teams headed into the intermission tied at 13.
The third quarter witnessed a complete reversal of fortunes on the defensive end as both teams nearly doubled their first half output. Westover raced out to an early lead on the strength of two threes from senior Matt Moore and smothering defense in the full court.
Smith Mountain Lake called a timeout with the Bulldogs up 23-17 and this proved to be a turning point in the game. The Ospreys did the majority of their damage from the free-throw line going 10 for 12 from the charity stripe after going 0-4 in the first half.
The Bulldogs failed to get to the line in the quarter. The deciding frame began with Smith Mountain Lake up 27-23. The two teams went back and forth with the Ospreys' lead stretching to as many as seven points before the Bulldogs stormed back on the backs of their defense and closed the gap to just two points before a made free-throw stretched the lead back out to three.
Westover had several quality looks at the basket from distance in the final few moments but the shots simply couldn't find nylon and fell 40-36.
For the game, Smith Mountain Lake went 14-24 from the free throw line while Westover went 5-9.
Westover was led in scoring by Josh Lewis who had 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Matt Moore came off the bench and provided a spark on both ends of the floor scoring nine points to go along with three steals while Noah Burton had six points, all in the fourth quarter.
Dylan Aaron and Ashton Bettendorf both chipped in with two points.
The Bulldogs finished the season with a 7-6 record. The 2020-21 varsity team made history by being the first team in school history to make the VACA state final four and championship game in consecutive years.