Connor George of Okemos cheers after hitting a 3-point shot during the Chiefs’ Class A district quarterfinal game with Waverly Monday March 9, 2015 in Okemos.
OKEMOS – Having already lost to Grand Ledge twice this season in CAAC Blue play, Okemos longed for another shot at the Comets in the Class A district round.
The Chiefs will have that opportunity tomorrow night after dispatching Waverly 44-33 in the first round on Monday.
“We played them tough twice and ever since we lost the last one by three, they’ve been itching,” Okemos coach Jeff Wonch said. “You don’t want to point it out and say ‘I hope this happens’ before it does, but we really wanted it to happen.”
Both Okemos (13-8) and Waverly (12-9) struggled early in the game, with the Chiefs leading just 9-6 after the first quarter. Okemos did not register points until five minutes into the game.
The Warriors continued to struggle in the second quarter, but pulled to within a point at halftime with Okemos up 16-15.
Okemos scored the first 12 points of the third quarter and Waverly’s first points of the second half came on a basket by Josh Smith with 1:12 remaining in the third.
“We weren’t expecting this. We didn’t come out with any energy,” Waverly coach Craig Fields said. “We got killed on the glass and that’s been our strong suit all year. I’ll take the blame for this. We weren’t prepared, I guess. …
“I was very surprised. Earlier in the year, we struggled a little bit at times in a game but we’ve always snapped out of it and played pretty well in the second half. We’ve got a young team but we’re 20 games in now. We didn’t come to play.”
Okemos senior Conner George, who finished with 22 points to lead Okemos, scored eight points during the 12-0 spurt and helped give the Chiefs their biggest lead of the game.
“The game plan was to stop him and that beats Okemos, but he’s very crafty,” Fields said of George. “He’s a very good player.”
“I think everyone was just getting their jitters out – first game of districts in a big game with two good teams,” George said. “We finally got comfortable and both teams started to hit more shots. Waverly was a very good defensive team and very athletic and we found ways to move the ball to the open spot and then we were able to make some shots.”
As off as they looked at times, Waverly scored the final four points of the third quarter to keep the game within 10 points and found themselves down just three at the 4:38 mark of the fourth quarter after a hoop and foul shot from sophomore Jaden Sutton.
The Chiefs then scored 14 of the game’s final 20 points, getting a big basket and foul shot from sophomore Luke Stagg early in the run to help bolster the lead as the Waverly defense focused on George.
“They always try to stop Conner first, so if you set a screen for him you’re going to be open yourself,” Stagg said after ending the game with seven points. “I was looking to score and Conner passed me the ball a couple of times right underneath the basket. I just put it in with a pump fake. Those guys love to try and block your shot so you can use that against them and draw the foul.”
Junior LaVell Fomby led the Warriors with 13 points.