“We got to play better defense and we got to get better team chemistry,” Westlake boys’ basketball coach Darron Rogers said. “Our team chemistry is not where it needs to be.
“Our guys just want to score the ball,” Rogers said. “They play defense just to play offense. We got to change that mentality or we are going to struggle against teams we are stronger than.”
Joshua Milam led the Raiders with 20 points and Quincey January and Marcus Logan had 14 each in Riverdale’s second loss of the season to the Lions.
“Westlake has always been tough,” Riverdale boys’ basketball coach Tony Brinson said. “They’ve been a top-ranked team for many years.”
Thanks to an 11-0 run in the final minutes of the first quarter and early in the second quarter, Westlake carried a double-digit lead for much of the contest until the Raiders made a charge in the final period.
With 1:41 to go, Morgan drained one of his three 3-pointers for a 67-64 score and pulled Riverdale within one stop of tying the game. But Bagtas, who was too quick to pressure heavily or get a five-second call against, nailed a pair of free throws 15 seconds later to rebuild the Lions’ lead.
But with 1:05 left, Milam would respond with a 3-pointer, cutting the margin to 69-67.
“Josh played a big-time game tonight,” Brinson said.
However, Bagtas would calmly answer with two more foul shots, pushing the lead to four points with 59 seconds left.
Then, Bagtas and Heard would go a combined 6-for-6 from the stripe in the final 39 seconds to keep Westlake (8-1) perfect against Georgia teams.
“I was very impressed with our resolve and the fact that we got the ball to the right guy’s hands,” Rogers said. “I was very impressed with the decision making at the end.”
Even though Riverdale fell to 6-5 overall, the Raiders have not lost a game by double digits this season.
“We’re hanging in there,” Brinson said. “By playing games this early against top-ranked teams, it is going to help us come region play.”
In the third quarter, the inside-outside punch of Elam and Bagtas, who swished three shots from the arc, nearly turned this rematch into a rout as Westlake built its largest lead of 50-32.
“I gave them a C effort,” Rogers said. “We don’t want an A right now. We would rather have an A in March--maybe get a B in January.
“I guess they are kind of where I want them but I’m just so critical as a coach about defense,” Rogers said. “Because I know that is what eventually will help you win a championship.”
Riverdale visits Woodland-Henry on Friday and Westlake visits Alcovy on Saturday.