Withstanding a furious Reservoir rally down the stretch, Atholton stayed unbeaten Saturday night with a 53-48 victory on the road.
Junior Justin Ballmer led the way with 18 points, Brady Acker chipped in nine and the Raiders sank enough free throws in the final four minutes to hold off a Gators’ team that scored nine of the game’s final 12 points.
“This team has a lot of fight,” Atholton coach Jared Albert said. “We showed a lot of heart in our first game up at Aberdeen and I thought that carried over into our game here tonight.
“Offensively we had our tough stretches, but the defensive effort is what pulled us through.”
In the loss, Reservoir was led by Cameron Brooks (8 points) and Brandon Franklin (7). The Gators had trailed by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter, 40-29, but rallied all the way back to a two-point game with a minute left.
Aaron McDonald had a 3-point attempt rim out with 18 seconds left that would have given Reservoir the lead and later, with six seconds left, Kyle Reilly missed three free throws that could have tied the game at 41.
With Reservoir narrowly missing on its opportunities, Atholton capitalized with Dominic Bernetti and Micheal Bernetti combining to make three foul shots in the final 15 seconds to create the final margin.
Ultimately Atholton’s big lead early in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference and Ballmer played a big role in establishing that cushion. The Mount St. Joseph transfer, who scored a team-high 19 points against Aberdeen, hit a trio of threes against Reservoir and had five of his 18 points in the fourth quarter.
“He provides a huge lift obviously in terms of our scoring, but he really just fits so well with our team,” Albert said. “You see him out there and it’s like he’s been playing here since he was a freshman.”
Atholton 43, Reservoir 38
A (1-0, 2-0): Ballmer 18, Acker 9, Shapiro 7, Casey, D. Bernetti 3, M. Bernetti 3.
Re (0-1, 0-1): Brooks 8, Franklin 7, Reilly 5, Williams 4, Toler 3, McDonald 3, Christian 2, Henry 2, Young 2, Boris 2.
Half: 22-20 A.