By Matthew Snyder
Trailing by 12 points to Stuart Hall at halftime, Lick-Wilmerding head boys basketball coach Eliot Smith feared that the game might end in a rout.
But the Tigers mounted a second-half comeback on the road, turning the game into a nail-biter that featured four ties, six lead changes and one overtime period before the Knights recovered to secure a 55-52 Bay Counties League West victory on Tuesday night.
The Tigers (10-8, 0-3) combined a full-court, man-to-man pressure defense with tough rebounding to outscore Stuart Hall 14-2 in the third quarter and tie the game at 39-39. Benjamin Schneider and Andrew Rauch each scored six points in that quarter, and fellow senior forward Matthew Bergland had three rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
“We only scored two points,” said Stuart Hall head coach Charles Johnson. “For a team that’s 13-4 going into the game, and now 14-4, sometimes we play too tight, and that can be a reflection on me. I might need to back off a little bit to get the guys loosened up, but in the end, we did some nice execution, and came out on top.”
Lick led 46-43 after a Bergland three-pointer with just over two minutes remaining, but when the Tigers missed an opportunity to extend their lead to two scores, Stuart Hall (14-4, 2-1) rebounded, and senior shooting guard Cade McLaughlin raced to the other end of the court, where he set up in the right-hand corner and sank his third three-pointer of the game to tie the game at 46-46 with 56.3 seconds left.
“There was no one within a couple feet of me, and I’d made a couple threes before, so I just let it go,” McLaughlin said. “It was a great outlet pass to get it to me. I didn’t see anybody around and I actually bobbled the ball, but it went in. I haven’t been shooting the ball great this season, so I was happy it went in.”
Both teams had opportunities to pull ahead in the final minute, but neither team could score, sending the game to overtime.
McLaughlin hit his fourth three-pointer of the game to give the Knights a 51-48 lead in overtime, but the Tigers snatched the lead back at 52-51 with a four-point surge punctuated by a layup off of a steal by Bergland with 55 seconds remaining.
Stuart Hall forward Rodney McKinney hit a layup on the next possession to give the Knights another lead at 53-52, and after an empty Lick possession, the senior went to the free throw with an opportunity to put the game away. McKinney missed his first three free throws of the game, but he sank those last two to seal the win.
McLaughlin’s 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field tied him for the game high with Schneider.
“We were upset at halftime. We gave up 37 points at halftime and in the third quarter, we gave up two,” Smith said. “So that’s all effort. It’s all character. I’m very proud of my guys. We’ve got the lead, but now we’re exhausted in the fourth quarter, because we put ourselves in that hole . . . We had our opportunity [to win the game]. We missed a lay up, and we went for the steal, and the guy hit that three. What can you do? You gotta finish.”
Cade McLaughlin – 16
Armani Collins – 10
Rodney McKinney – 10
Matt McCrum – 5
Tyler Ryan – 5
Benjamin Schneider – 16
Matthew Bergland – 14
Andrew Rauch – 12
David Allen – 6
Two players tied with 2 points