Glenelg Country battled through a short bench and a spirited second-half Archbishop Spalding comeback on Thursday night, holding on down the stretch for a 72-69 victory.
The Dragons, playing with just seven guys due to injuries to starters Anthony Longpre (13.3 ppg) and CJ Wilson (8.5), got a team-high 21 points from Joshua Hightower and put four guys in double figures overall. On the other side, the Cavaliers got big games from Justin Kane (22 points) and Buzz Anthony (17) to nearly come all the way back from a 14-point deficit at the half.
“To our guys credit, they held it together, made enough stops and made enough plays to find a way to secure a win with two of our top guys cheering from the side. It’s an important win,” Glenelg Country coach Kevin Quinlan said. “But we are still figuring out how to come out of halftime with more energy, which has been a problem all season. Hats off to Spalding, they have good shooters and good athletes and are a tough team. We really had to rely on our game plan defensively to hold on there at the end.”
Spalding (3-9 MIAA A, 8-15 overall), which trimmed its deficit to two points on four different occasions in the fourth quarter, simply never could quite get over the hump to tie or take the lead.
Glenelg Country (8-5 MIAA A, 14-7) made just enough free throws —nine in the final three minutes — to keep the Cavaliers at an arms length.
“It’s the old basketball cliché, but we dug ourselves such a big hole in that first half that we had to work so hard to get back that the kids simply ran out of gas and out of time,” Spalding coach Nick Jones said. “Another 30 seconds on the clock, who knows, maybe we finish it off. But we’re a young team … and the message is to learn from this situation.”
Glenelg Country had built its first-half lead courtesy of some sharpshooting from the outside — making five threes in the opening 16 minutes — and some easy baskets in transition. By the end of the first quarter, the Dragons were ahead 22-15 following a 3-pointer by Isaiah Burnett (15 points).
The lead ballooned to double digits for the first time midway through the second quarter, following a Matthew Bernetti (11 points) three that made it 29-19. Another Bernetti shot from beyond the arc, this time with two seconds left before halftime, made it 38-24 going into intermission.
“We went with a small line-up at times after Chase (Paar) got a couple fouls and I thought they really got into guys and were very energized,” Quinlan said. “We defended in that first half the way I know we are capable.”
Spalding found life immediately out of the break, however. Kane knocked down three 3-pointers in the first 3:15 of the third quarter to start the comeback. Then, toward the end of the quarter, Jordan Hull (9 points) got into the act to pull the Cavaliers all the way back within two, 50-48.
“I basically told the guys at the half that the team I’ve been coaching all season hadn’t shown up yet. It certainly wasn’t the same guys that went toe-to-toe with John Carroll the other night, not the guys that swept Mount Carmel and not the guys who beat John Carroll earlier in the season,” Jones said. “So I basically challenged them more than anything else. It was more so getting back to who we are and what we do. And their response was awesome.”
Glenelg Country simply had an answer for every run. The Dragons’ Caidon Owen (12 points) scored the first points of the fourth quarter to make it a two-possession game and that started what was a back-and-forth affair the entire rest of the way.
Glenelg Country pushed its lead back up to as many as nine in the final frame, but also saw its lead shrink numerous times to just two points. Anthony played a big role in keeping the Cavaliers close, scoring 10 of the team’s 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Hightower said the fact that the Dragons have been in eight previous games decided by three points or less this winter ultimately helped the team prevail.
“I think all the close games we’ve played, it’s helped us to realize how to finish and what we have to do better,” he said. “We watched film of those games and really thought about how we can improve. I think we did a really good job today of just letting them have their run and then coming back.”
Glenelg Country 72, Archbishop Spalding 69
GC (8-5, 14-7): Hightower 21, Burnett 15, Owen 12, Bernetti 11, Williams 9, Paar 4.
AS (3-9, 8-15): Kane 22, Anthony 17, Hull 9, McCormick 8, Hinton 3, Schemmel 3, Powell 2, Harding 2.
Half: 38-24 GC.
Chapelgate 66, Friends 59
CCA (6-6, 8-14): Graves 19, Mitchell 8, Ball 10, Murphy 15, McEachin 14.
F: Wheeler 9, Jones 24, Filer 2, Gomes 8, Williams 16.
Half: 36-32 CCA.