West Forsyth's basketball team is primarily focused on what happens this year, but a day before they took the court for their Tuesday game against Gainesville, the Wolverines couldn't help but put the matchup in a different context.
Beginning next season, the Wolverines and the Red Elephants will be in the same region, and with West looking for its third straight win to start the year, they simultaneously wanted to send their future rivals a warm welcome.
Behind a scorching start from sharpshooter Nick Zabetakis, the Wolverines jumped out to an 18-point lead, and although Gainesville put together a few short runs midway through the contest, West did more than enough down the stretch to secure an 82-63 victory.
"We did talk about that," West boys basketball coach Fredrick Hurt said. "This is like a region game now for next year. We're worried about this year, but we'd also like to send a little type of message for the future of, 'You're coming into this region and it's not just going to be yours.'"
Zabetakis scored 13 points in the first quarter, connecting on three shots from behind the arc. Broc Bidwell and Jack Bock contributed to the Wolverines' first quarter as well, with the two combining for another nine points.
"In the first quarter, offensively, we played about as well as you could play," Hurt said. "Yeah, making shots helps you, but we really shared the ball like we preach. We had everybody making the extra pass, and it was beautiful to watch. Of course, when they go in, it makes it more beautiful."
Gainesville, on the other hand, had a sloppy start, particularly in ball-handling. West continued its hot start into the second quarter, increasing its lead to 38-12 with an 8-0 run to start the period. As halftime approached, though, the Red Elephants began to find some offensive success, and while the Wolverines had a 50-30 lead at the break, they were looking to recapture the kind of offensive prowess they'd shown early.
"It's hard to do," Hurt said. "I don't think we maintained what we did in the first quarter, but I think there were only a few letups. Any good team's going to make a run, and they did. We withstood it and our defense got solid again."
The Wolverines' offense never quite clicked exactly in the same way had in the first quarter, but they still found plenty of ways to attack the basket. Bock added five points in the third quarter, and Russell Miller added five. Joseph Staiti, who scored 14 in the first half, added four in the third. At the end of the third, West was up 71-47, and the Wolverines pulled their starters heading into the fourth.
Zabetakis finished with 14 points on the night, while Staiti led West with 16. Bock and Bidwell scored 12 and 9, respectively.
"I think they're getting comfortable playing," Hurt said. "Most of our offense, we don't really have positions, but there are some things that we do have to have positions. I think each week, we're just going to get more comfortable and it's going to make us better."