Francis Scott Key’s winter has been a tough one, with early losses and several players missing time because of injuries and illness.
The Eagles were up against it once more Monday when Ryan Rill, a sophomore forward and the team’s leader in points and rebounds, went down at the end of the first quarter with an ankle injury. Rill watched from the bench the rest of the way as his teammates battled Clear Spring down to the final possessions.
After a potential game-winning shot came off the rim, and the Blazers held on for a 59-56 victory, Francis Scott Key was left to ponder its ninth loss in 11 games to start the season.
“No matter who you’re playing, you have to compete extraordinarily hard to win basketball games,” Kimble said. “There were too many second opportunities for Clear Spring tonight.”
The Blazers led 54-46 with 4 minutes, 48 seconds to play before Key erased the eight-point deficit and eventually drew even on a steal-turned-layup from Liam McGrath with 1:12 remaining. The Eagles forced Clear Spring into seven turnovers over a stretch of eight possessions to get back in it, but the visitors had an answer.
Cameron Day and Cole Easterday combined for three free throws in the final 27 seconds, and FSK missed its final five field goals.
McGrath had a chance to give his team the lead with a runner down the lane that went halfway down before coming out of the hoop, and Easterday came up with the rebound.
McGrath led Francis Scott Key with 16 points and Travis Williams added 13. McGrath pitched in with six rebounds and four assists, and Jaeden Heiser added six points and four steals.
Rill, who came into the game averaging close to 15 points and 10 rebounds per game, had seven points and four rebounds in the first quarter but had to sit from there with ice wrapped on his left ankle.
It’s a trend Kimble would rather not have to dissect — Heiser missed time dealing with injury early on, and the coach said a virus has made it way through his team twice already.
“We jokingly refer to it as ‘The Consumption,’” said Kimble, who chose fist-bumps over handshakes because he too was getting over the bug.
FSK (2-9) is without senior Matt Diehl, who suffered an injury in Week 1 of his football season. On Monday, Key was without a pair of sophomores in Logan Milstreed and Michael Saghy because of sicknesses.
“When you have six sophomores, and a lot of kids who have never played varsity basketball, everything is a learning experience,” Kimble said.
Jakob Hull had 17 points for Clear Spring (2-9), and Weaver added 16. The Blazers trailed by eight points late in the second quarter, and were behind 41-34 midway through the third before closing that frame on an 11-2 run. Hull’s 3-pointer from the right wing with 33 seconds to go put his team ahead 45-42, but McGrath answered on the other end with a basket of his own.
A 3 from McGrath deep in the corner with 1:24 to play got the Eagles to within two at 56-54, and he had his hands on the ball several times in the fourth quarter.
He’s averaging close to 14 points this winter, and gives Key another offensive threat alongside Rill and Williams (9 ppg).
“I thought we let one slip through our fingers on Friday night,” Kimble said, referring to FSK’s loss against Frederick, “and I thought we let another one slip through our fingers [Monday]. And ultimately that’s my responsibility. I told the boys we’re going to get 1% better tomorrow, try and win on Wednesday night at Winters Mill.”
Clear Spring (59): Bryce Block 2, Cameron Day 5, Cole Easterday 8, Jakob Hull 17, Cole Weaver 16, Ethan Weaver 2, Kyle Willhite 8.
Francis Scott Key (56): Travis Williams 13, Jaeden Heiser 6, Luke Breeze 6, Ryan Rill 7, Elijas Harris 4, Cam Brooks 4, Liam McGrath 16.