FISHERSVILLE — Wilson Memorial senior guard Jaizel Mensah’s 24 points and lockdown defense helped the Green Hornets come back for the second game in a row for a 63-57 win over the Buffalo Gap Bison on Tuesday night in Shenandoah District boys basketball.
The Hornets were fresh off a stunning 26-point rally Monday night when they knocked off Turner Ashby 81-74 in overtime.
Mensah’s hustle was the spark that the Hornets needed to help win the game in the final minutes. Mensah transferred to Wilson from Harrisonburg.
Wilson head coach Jeremy Hartman praised Mensah’s performance during their fourth game over the course of five days to begin the season.
“He is just so hard to guard in the open floor,” Hartman said. “He can pretty much get to the basket whenever he wants. He changes a lot of things we do defensively. He’s new to the system so he is just catching on to things. We still have some things to adjust and work on there. What he brings to the table is a huge benefit to us.”
Hartman also elaborated on the team’s resilience over this early stretch of games in a COVID-19 season where you will see a bunch of these stretches of playing multiple games a week.
“You know it’s tough,” Hartman said. “To play four games in five days and (Monday) night took a lot out of these guys, to come back from 25-plus down. This was a game that we could’ve easily folded, but these kids are a resilient group. They want to win.”
After Wilson scored the first two points of the game, the Bison went on a 12-2. After a quick timeout, the Hornets closed the gap with a 9-6 spurt to end the quarter that sliced Gap’s lead to 18-13.
The second quarter started with a similar pace as the Bison regained the momentum with a 9-4 run. The Hornets showed grit toward the latter part of the half to keep the game close at 34-26 at the break.
A theme of the night for the Hornets continued in the third quarter, which was turnovers leading to easy opportunities for the visitors.
But the Hornets were swarming to the ball, creating opportunities for themselves to keep the game tight. Gap was forced to call a timeout midway through the period after the Hornets closed the gap to seven with 4:27 left in the third quarter.
The Hornets continued their momentum despite the timeout, but a crucial three by Gap’s Jackson LaPorte gave the Bison a 43-40 lead. After consecutive triples by both teams, the Hornets hit a layup at the buzzer to close the deficit to 46-44.
The Bison started the final eight minutes with back-to-back baskets by senior Ethan Teter in the post.
Then Mensah, who had the buzzer-beater at the end of the third period, gave the Hornets some momentum back in the quarter with an old-fashioned three-point play, cutting the margin to three.
The Hornets tied the game at 57-all with just over two minutes remaining. They grabbed their first lead since the opening points of the game at 59-57. Two crucial steals and a free throw by Mensah helped seal the comeback. Jaxon Hartman made two free throws with 13.3 seconds on the clock for the final margin.
Buffalo Gap head coach Chad Ward talked about the last five minutes and what went wrong down the stretch.
“We went kind of cold in the last five minutes,” he said. “I think they went into a triangle-and-2 there in the third quarter to try to take away Bennett (Bowers) and Tanner (Rivenburg). We made the adjustment for them and we got them to come out of it, but we didn’t execute our offense the way we needed to pull the ball game out.”
Buffalo Gap (0-2, 0-2) plays to Stuarts Draft on Thursday before hitting the road Friday to county rival Riverheads. The Hornets (3-1, 2-0) play Staunton at home on Friday.
Sophomore guard Finn Irving also scored 15 points for the Hornets in the win.
Teter was the leading scorer for the Bison with 21 points. Senior guard Tanner Rivenburg added 17.
Buffalo Gap won the junior varsity contest 45-26.
WILSON MEMORIAL 63, BUFFALO GAP 57
BUFFALO GAP (57) — Sherrill 1 0-0 2, Lawrence 2 0-0 4, Bowers 3 1-1 8, Rivenburg 7 2-2 17, Thompson 1 0-0 2, LaPorte 1 0-0 3, Teter 7 5-6 21, Hewitt, Canterbury, TOTALS 21 8-9 57.