THURMONT, Md. —When things went from a sparring match to a full-fledged fight, the North Hagerstown boys basketball team put up its guard.
Or in this case, it was its guards.
J.R. Railing and Isiaha Keyes guided the Hubs through the dicey parts of a tense fourth quarter on Friday as the Hubs counter-punched their way to a 69-65 MVAL Antietam victory over Catoctin.
Railing scored 23 points and Keyes added 16, and the duo combined for 11 points in the fourth quarter as the Hubs outpointed the Cougars in a close game that should have never been.
“Railing and Keyes not only handled the ball, but they made the shots we needed to answer Catoctin’s guards. Our guards went toe-to-toe with their guards,” said North coach Kevin Hartman.
They had to in order to bring North off the ropes.
The Hubs (8-7, 6-5) did all the right things while surviving some first-half foul trouble to post a 35-16 halftime lead. North had lost Nick Colvin, Andrew Yacyk and Genc Pllana with two fouls each — even though it was in control with a 17-7 lead — by the 7:46 mark of the second quarter.
North rode out the half with Railing controlling the ball and the offense while guards Max Ober and Keyes joined Will Peralta on the back line of the defense. In fact, the Hubs expanded the lead to 19 with the group.
Suddenly, the tables switched after the half.
Catoctin (2-14, 1-9) unloaded eight of its nine 3s in the second half and Tyler Smith asserted himself inside as the Cougars began to get back into the game.
“I told the guys not to look at their record, Catoctin will play you to the final buzzer,” Hartman said. “I think we got a little on our heels because of the big lead, but I don’t think we allowed the game to get away from us. They started to hit their shots.”
Fouls began to hamper Colvin, Yacyk and Peralta in the third quarter, allowing Catoctin to make a run.
Josh Laramore hit three of his four 3s in the third quarter to help get the Cougars within 54-40 by the end of the third quarter. Railing and Keyes scored nine of North’s final 14 points in the period to help the Hubs maintain the lead.
North’s glue started peeling in the fourth quarter, as Catoctin unloaded a 13-0 run midway through the period — capped by Alex Kennedy’s 3 — to claw within 59-57 with 1:55 remaining.
The Hubs looked to Railing and Keyes — with a little help from Pllana — to re-establish a 65-58 lead with 47 seconds to go.
That run allowed North to survive a technical foul assessed when the officials called the Hubs for six players on the floor when they only had four. The call was apparently made because the official scorer said Ober didn’t properly check in before taking the floor. The officials put the ball in play before the mistake was rectified.
Keyes and Pllana each hit free throws in the final 21 seconds to ice the game.
Pllana finished with 10 points as North’s only other scorer with double figures.
Smith finished with 22 while Kennedy had 18 and Laramore added 15 for the Cougars.
“We told the kids we wanted to take time off the clock and run our offense, but they rushed,” Hartman said. “But to the kids’ credit, they did a great job hitting free throws, rebounding and making a few defensive stops when we needed them.”
JV: North, 57-52, OT (NH: Nick Karlen 19).
North Hagerstown 69, Catoctin 65
NORTH HAGERSTOWN (8-7, 6-4)
Medly 4, Ober 4, Pllana 10, Keyes 16, Colvin 2, Railing 23, Yacyk 3, peralta 7. Totals 26 14-20 69.
CATOCTIN (2-14, 1-9)
Tonkans 5, Laramore 15, Vaniver 4, Kennedy 18, Watkins 2, Smith 22. Totals 20 16-20 65.
North Hagestown 17 18 19 15 — 69
Catoctin 7 9 24 25 — 65
3-point goals — North 3 (Railing, Keyes, Pllana), Catoctin 9 (Kennedy 4, Laramore 4, Tonkans). Technical foul — North bench. Fouled out — North (Yacyk), Catoctin (Vandiver).