A huge fourth quarter by Mount Gilead allowed them to take visiting Northmor to overtime in a Tuesday night KMAC contest.
Then, in the extra period, the Indians were able to take control of a contest in which they trailed most of regulation, picking up a 79-70 win over the Golden Knights.
“Talking to the guys, we’ve been in those situations the last couple weeks where we’ve gotten down,” said MG head coach Dan Strasser. “We talk about learning from experience. We weren’t pressing or forcing shots. In the second half, we chipped away at it. It’s good to see the guys rewarded for that type of play.”
Entering the fourth, the Indians trailed 45-39 and a quarter-opening basket by Max Lower made that an eight-point deficit. However four straight points by Elijah Chafin and a three-pointer from Carter Kennon turned that into a 47-46 game with 6:39 left.
One free throw by Grant Bentley extended Northmor’s lead to two points, but Mount Gilead countered with another Kennon three and a Quade Harris basket to lead 51-48 — the team’s first advantage since it was 2-0 in the early seconds of the contest.
Northmor would battle back behind three-pointers from Bentley and four points by Graesin Cass to lead 62-59 late in the game, but Chafin buried a three with under 10 seconds in regulation to send it to overtime.
“I thought our offense execution was as good as it’s been all year,” said Northmor coach Blade Tackett. “We were really calm under pressure and up three with under 25 seconds with our defense against their offense for the last possession. They take a 28-foot three to tie the game and make it and then in overtime, they got to the line and made free throws.”
The extra session opened with Paul Butterman and Cass trading three-pointers. MG would then get a boost with an Aaron Gannon bucket and a shot and free throw from Butterman to lead 70-65. Northmor wouldn’t be able to get any closer than three points over the final minutes of overtime, as the Indians hit 10-of-14 free throws over those four minutes, including seven straight over a two-minute stretch.
MG’s late comeback to force overtime came after three quarters of play where Northmor held an advantage nearly the entire way.
After Butterman opened with game with a basket for the Indians, Bentley scored eight of the game’s next nine points to help his team surge in front 11-3. It was 16-11 Northmor after the first quarter and they would lead by as many as 11 at 22-11 and 26-15 in the second quarter.
“We felt in control the whole game, but they were able to take open shots and stay in it,” said Tackett.
The Indians finished the half strongly, getting four points by Chafin in closing within a 27-24 margin going into the intermission.
In the third quarter, Northmor was able to maintain a lead. After baskets by Cass and Lower stretched their advantage to 31-24, the Indians repeatedly got within two or three points, but a late 7-3 run made it a six-point game going into the fourth.
Mount Gilead’s eventual win was sparked by Chafin and Butterman. Chafin finished the game with 33 points, 20 coming in the fourth and overtime; while Butterman finished with 20.
“Those guys made some big shots,” said Strasser. “Add Carter in there. He made some big shots. The guys put in a lot of work in the off-season.”
Kennon and Harris both scored eight, while Gannon finished with 10. Northmor got six three-pointers and 30 points from Bentley, while Cass scored 14, Logan Mariotti tallied 12 and Lower finished with 11.
With both Bentley and Chafin being sophomores, Tackett is expecting to see exciting duels between the guards for quite some time.
“Two sophomores battling,” he said. “They’re both great kids and great basketball players. It was fun basketball for me, too. Sometimes it bounces your way in the end, sometimes it doesn’t. If we have a chance to win in the fourth, we did our job as a team. Sometimes, you just have to tip your hat when the other team makes big plays.”
For Strasser, it was simply a good night, with his team getting the win over a county rival in a closely-contested game.
“It’s always a little sweeter against a county rival,” he said. “We’ve been on the other end of it before. It was a great environment and great game and obviously highly entertaining, I hope, for the fans.”