WESTPORT, Mass. –- Roll this number around in your mind: nine percent.
That’s what Westport’s defense forced Cardinal Spellman into shooting from the floor (1-for-11) in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s non-league game.
As a result, the Wildcats rallied from deficits as great as nine points in the third quarter, outscored the Cardinals 20-5 over the final eight minutes and walked off the court with a 52-44 victory -– which gave them a sweep of the season series between the teams.
“We switched it up a little bit,” junior forward Richie Hartnett said. “We went to a different defense. It’s like a scramble defense. Usually you trap in the corner and everybody rotates around.
“It seemed to work out with them because they couldn’t get a set offense going. They’d miss a couple of shots and we got the rebounds.”
Westport’s ability to rebound was another factor in its ability to out-score Spellman (8-3) 20-5 in the fourth quarter which began with the Cardinals leading 39-32.
Seemingly in an eye blink, Westport (12-1) hit Spellman with a 15-4 run during which Chris Hartnett (Richie’s older brother), Carlos Silver and Jake Friar (game-high 19 points, 12 of which came on four three-point shots) each buried a trey.
Friar’s shot gave Westport a 47-43 lead with 2:35 remaining.
Then, after Spellman’s Paul Preozzi converted 1-of-2 free throw attempts, Westport closed out the Cardinals when Friar converted a layup, Chris Hartnett sank both ends of a two-point foul and Ryan Kirby added another freebie.
Wildcats flash fangs: “My kids had a lot of fight in them,” Westport coach Scot Boudria said. “We made some adjustments from the first half to the second half. I think offensively we tended to use picks better. We tended to look for open space instead of everybody cramming to look to the ball.
“I think defensively we really stepped up. Defensively, I thought our rotation was excellent. I thought our rotation allowed us to get into our transition offense which allowed us to score easier baskets in the fourth quarter.”
Westport torched the Cardinals for 83.3 percent shooting (5-for-6) in the final period which enabled the Wildcats to finish with their largest margin of the game -– one reason being they began driving the lane more than they did in the first half when they shot a mediocre 40 percent (10-25).
“That was one of the things we discussed at halftime,” Boudria said. “Don’t settle for an outside jump shot every time you see one that’s open because you can get them often.
“I thought Spellman was more athletic than we were so we were going to have to play basketball at a much higher level in order to be successful. I thought we did that. Every time down, 18 or 20 seconds were taken off the clock. That wears you down defensively. The fourth quarter is when you make your move.”
Donovan hot early: Rory Donovan (14 points) and Joey Crane (10 points) were the only Cardinals to reach double figures.
Donovan scored 12 of his points in the first half as the Cardinals took advantage of Westport’s cold shooting and forged a 26-21 lead at intermission.
Austin Joseph drained a trey with 3:23 left in the third to give the Cardinals the second of their nine-point leads, this time at 36-27. But once the Wildcats clamped down on defense, especially in the fourth quarter, the outcome virtually was inevitable.
“We don’t have a 20-point scorer,” Richie Hartnett said. “Everyone averages around 10 points a game. We have lots of assists and great defense which leads to easy baskets. If not, we slow down the ball, work the shot clock down and usually end up getting good shots.”