Hogg Heaven: DJ, West defense lead the way in second half of win over Wylie
For the first half of Tuesday night's game against Wylie, the Plano West boys basketball team looked just like a team that is largely populated with underclassmen that are new to varsity.
In the second half, the Wolves showed that their inexperience comes with plenty of potential.
West trailed at halftime, 29-28, but overwhelmed Wylie in the second half with a mix of stout defense and transition scoring that led to a 66-46 victory. The win evened the Wolves' season record at 4-4 despite the team still being without six expected contributors (senior Devron Kennedy, juniors Zach White, Josh Webb, sophomores Soso Jamabo, Lavel Ramsey and Derrick Aimes).
"We've gotten some great minutes all around," said Anthony Morgan, West head coach. "And we've really been developing our younger players; it's a lot faster game, but they are getting there."
DJ Hogg was a perfect example of that Tuesday.
The sophomore had just two points at halftime, but ended the night as the game's leading scorer with 23 while adding eight rebounds.
"My team kept believing in me," Hogg said, "and kept getting me more touches."
"I think DJ might not have been as intense as he needed to be early on," Morgan added. "That happens a lot with younger players, so I told him, "no one is going to give this to you, you've got to go out there and take it.'"
Hogg did just that as he scored West's final 12 points of the third quarter. That string included back-to-back 3-pointers to give West its first double-digit lead at 43-33 and cap a run of 15-4 to start the half.
West's defense stepped up in the second half as well.
"At halftime, coach talked a lot about our defense," Hogg said. "He said [Wylie] shouldn't have as many points as they did, so we knew we needed to go back out there and refocus."
Wylie had to continually circle around the perimeter to find shots and those opportunities didn't always arise as senior Ben Gasaway, junior CJ Winzer and sophomore McCann Utu all picked up charges during West's third-quarter surge.
"You saw more intensity and guys moving their feet in the second half," Morgan said. "And we've been working on getting out in front of our man, so it was good to see those charges."
It was more of the same in the fourth except the charges were replaced by blocks and steals with Winzer and Hogg each stuffing a shot and junior Tre Anderson picking the pocket of a Pirate in the first two minutes of the final frame. Anderson was a contributor offensively as well as he and senior teammate AJ Lozano each posted eight points. Lozano also had five boards, a total matched by Winzer.
Many of those West points were facilitated by senior point guard Zack Levick, who played for the first time this season on Tuesday.
"That was definitely a spark for us," Hogg said.
Levick, taking the spot of senior Tim Okposin (who is not injured but is not on the team this season), had 11 points and was key during a 16-2 surge to start the fourth that turned a 47-41 Wolves' lead into a 63-43 cushion.
"Zack is one of our senior leaders," Morgan said. "He settles us down out there and gives the team some confidence too."
Such confidence was difficult for Wylie to find in the fourth as the visitors didn't get their first field goal until David Strickland dropped in a layup to make it 63-45 with 1:01 to go. Strickland was the Pirates' leading scorer with 13 points, followed by Karmell Joseph and Denis Dervisevic, who each scored eight. Brandon Frederick led the squad with seven rebounds.
Wylie's second-half struggles were a far cry from a first half in which there were eight lead changes and the Pirates led at the break 29-28.
Change No. 9 came at the start of the third as a Winzer putback made it 30-29. Hogg took over from there and the West advantage continually expanded in an eventual 66-46 victory.
"This was our home opener and it was good to see we didn't have a letdown," Morgan said. "We were down at the half, but then we were able to break it open in the second half against a good team, so I thought this was a good game for us to build on going forward."