When Westminster lost to Augusta Prep in December, the Wildcats could have blamed the loss on a lack of heart -- without being cliche.
Westminster freshman Matthew Tebbs missed the first meeting while recovering from surgery to repair a heart condition that has ailed him for seven years.
Tebbs was back on the floor Tuesday for the second time since the holiday break and scored seven points to help lead the Wildcats to a 69-54 victory over the Cavaliers.
"We didn't really want it as bad," said Wildcats senior Marcus Tebbs, Matthew's older brother, of the loss in December. "I think tonight, we had the fire. We were ready."
Matthew Tebbs couldn't exercise during the weeks preceding the Wildcats' region-opener with Trinity on Jan. 3. Without Matthew, the Wildcats lost to the Cavaliers in a game that didn't count toward either team's region record.
Cavaliers standout Jim Hull made 15 of 18 free throws during that December game, and coach Mark Tebbs said his team was determined to keep Hull off the line Tuesday.
Hull entered the game as the GISA's leading scorer, averaging more than 35 points a game. The Cavaliers senior scored 28 points Tuesday, but attempted only two free throws.
"The best thing we can do is contest his shot, keep your feet on the floor, keep a hand in his face, switch on screens," Tebbs said. "If he makes them, he makes them. It's ridiculous for us to let him go to the line."
Westminster beat Trinity and its win against Prep gave the Wildcats an early edge in their defense of the GISA Region 4-AAA title.
The Wildcats could credit Matthew Tebbs, who opens up the Wildcats' offense by giving them another ball handler.
"He sort of makes us a little bit more fluid," said Mark Tebbs, Matthew's father. "He's a freshman, but he's a gym rat. He loves basketball."
Matthew and the Wildcats pushed the tempo in the second half Tuesday, moving the ball inside and converting easy baskets.
Wildcats forwards Oliver Nesges and Emanuel Naykene combined for 31 points.
The Cavaliers started region play with what they feel is a more balanced attack than in recent years.
Cavaliers forward John Paul Lynn has emerged as a secondary threat to Hull.
Lynn is averaging nearly 14 points per game, and Prep has another ball handler in Joseph Hall. But Hull said before region play began that the Cavaliers success would depend on their defense. And the Wildcats made 12 of their 15 shots in the second half Tuesday.
"They kind of scored whenever they wanted to tonight," Cavaliers coach Mike Guthrie said. "We need to stop that."
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