Fourth quarter scoring explosion by senior Matthew Mayer fuels boys varsity basketball win over Judson in Area

With starting guard senior Keonte Kennedy sidelined with an ankle injury, Westlake faced a situation they’ve dealt with only a handful of times this year — trailing going into the fourth quarter.

Judson’s constant full-court pressure from the start of the game seemed to have finally worn down the Chaps in the third quarter. Forcing uncharacteristic mistakes, even from seniors Brock Cunningham and Luke Pluymen, the Rockets held a slim, 63-59 lead heading into the final quarter.

But Westlake outscored Judson 22-11 in the fourth quarter, getting 13 points from Baylor-commit senior Matthew Mayer in that frame, and escaped Hays High School Friday night with a 81-74 victory.

“We did a better job of keeping the ball centered and getting some outlets for our guards [in the fourth quarter],” Westlake head coach Robert Lucero said. “Once we got the outlet and the ball to the middle of the floor, Brock was able to hit [senior] Matthew [Mayer] and [junior] Will [Baker], and [senior] Kyle [Davis] had a couple of drives as well.”  

In the absence of Kennedy, the scoring load fell to Westlake’s other regular starters, and they delivered. Cunningham and Baker both had 23 points to lead all scorers, and Cunningham flirted with a triple-double, grabbing 17 boards and dishing seven assists.

“I’m able to perform a little better against the better teams,” Cunningham said. “It’s the talent level I’m used to playing against, so that’s a big part of my game. I play the same way if we’re up or we’re down. There isn’t really a switch where I’m like, ‘Now I’m going to rebound harder.’”

Baker also had a productive night on the glass and grabbed nine rebounds, which helped Westlake’s massive advantage in that department as they outrebounded Judson, 41-18.

Kennedy’s replacement, Davis, was also a big factor in the win. He scored only four points but had seven rebounds and five assists. As Lucero has said all season, Westlake’s bench is more than capable of stepping into the starting role, and they proved that in this game.

“It was a little stressful coming in, but we’ve been over this,” Davis said. “I’ve been practicing every day, so it was nothing new coming out here. I can integrate well, so there was nothing different. We practice and we play for this. Man goes down, next man comes in, and there’s not a lot of change.”

Judson head coach Victor Lopez made it clear after the game what he thought the difference was in the decisive fourth quarter — the referees. Westlake had 23 opportunities from the free-throw line compared to 16 for Judson.

“When the officials don’t call fouls when we get knocked to the ground, it’s pretty irritating,” Lopez said. “We fouled some invisible ones — it looks like they get an uncontested layup, and the whistle blows. On this end, our guy gets knocked to the ground, and they get the ball and go to the other end of the court.”

Lucero, on the other hand, thought the refs did a good job overall.

“You have all of these guys flying up and down the floor, it’s a super high possession game, and they kept control of it,” he said. “I never thought it got out of control, and there were some times where I thought there was a travel or something [they missed], but for the most part, I thought they did a good job controlling the game.”

Next up for Westlake is a rematch of the State Quarterfinals last year against No. 9 Wagner, this time in the Regional Quarterfinals 7:30 p.m. next Tuesday at San Marcos High School.

The Thunderbirds will likely miss their star point guard, junior Kevin McCullar, due to a left knee injury, but still have senior Daraun Clark, who hit the game-winning shot against the Chaps last year. Lucero said regardless of McCullar’s status come Tuesday night, his team will prepare the same way they have all year.