By MIKE ECKERT
TRAVERSE CITY — There weren't any style points for Traverse City West on Friday, but at the end of the day it went down as the team's first victory.
The Titans hit six free throws in the final 35 seconds to hold off Dexter for a 51-45 victory.
"We know going in that we have some learning to do," West coach Brett Graham said. "We've got kids in new roles and younger kids playing up. So this team is learning on the fly. Right now, the first thing is we have to learn to compete and play hard all the time. Hopefully we can grow from this. But we know, early on, we may have to win ugly. I really think by the end of the year, this could be a good basketball team."
TC West (1-1) never trailed in the game, but the Dreadnaughts kept it interesting. Derek Seidl scored the first five points of the fourth quarter for Dexter — including a 3-pointer from the left corner — to tie the game at 36-36.
The Titans, though, came right back on the next possession when senior Nate Castor buried a 3-pointer for a 39-36 lead they didn't surrender it the rest of the way.
"I just went out there and knocked shots down like coach wanted me to," Castor said.
Castor hit another 3-pointer later in the quarter to give TC West a 45-39 lead with 90 seconds left. He finished with 14 points.
"It was good for him," Graham said. "He's worked really hard on his game to get better and improve. I was happy for him. He should be proud. He stepped up in a big moment. He's capable of doing that. He's a very good player that doesn't know he's a good player sometimes. If he figures that out, he'll be alright."
TC West jumped out to a strong lead in the first half, largely in part to its defense. The Titans forced Dexter into 12 turnovers before halftime.
"We were getting up in gaps and pressuring them really well," Castor said.
"Defensively, we played okay," Graham said. "We just have to be more efficient on offense and find more buckets."
The Titans took a 27-20 halftime lead and extended it to 36-23 late in the third quarter. But then the Dreadnaughts started a comeback. Ethan Kremkus hit a 3-pointer, Ben Kill had a put-back and Seidl hit a deep 3-pointer at the horn to make it 36-31 Titans at the end of the third quarter. That set up the early run in the fourth quarter to tie the game.
"Hopefully, the kids learn that in a tough situation they can respond and win games," Graham said. "The reality is we probably shouldn't have been in that situation. But they responded. Nate Castor made a huge shot and we did a good job of getting him the ball. He stepped up and made a big shot."
Jeremiah Williams added nine points, eight rebounds and three steals while Alex Scott had 11 points — including 4-for-4 on free throws in the final 30 seconds. Donny Cizek had four rebounds, three assists and two steals while Kendrick Meyer had five rebounds and four steals.
Dexter was paced by 12 points from Adam Sikorski while Seidl had 11 points. The Dreadnaughts stay in town to play TC Central today.
TC West won the JV game 42-38 despite trailing the whole game. Trevor Goudey hit the winning basket with 8 seconds left. Thiyo Lukusa led the way for the Titans (1-1) with 17 points while Deion Dyal had 15 points.
The Titans also won the freshman game 56-22. West (2-0) had 12 points and five rebounds from Jared Roth while Josh Roman had 10 points and five steals.