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Posted: December 8, 2011 11:21 a.m.

Tigers emerge from 3OT battle with 79-77 win over Rams

 

Alcovy and Newton put on perhaps the most thrilling show two basketball teams could Saturday. After three overtimes and close to three hours of dueling back and forth, it was the Tigers who emerged with a 79-77 win. 

“That was a great ballgame from start to finish,” Alcovy coach Eugene Brown said. “Both teams started off a little slow with the scoring but once we got into the second half, guys started feeling more comfortable and shots started falling and the game just kept going.”

Alcovy’s Devon Edwards and Newton’s Stephen Croone each put their team on their backs down the stretch in the fourth quarter and throughout the overtime periods. After both scored four points in the first half, the duo finished with 34 and 36 points respectively. Edwards’ 34 tied a career high while Croone’s 36 were his personal best.

“That was a war,” Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. “I thought we grew up tonight. I really did. We’re not as much a veteran group as we were last year and we’re still young and don’t have as many leaders yet but I thought we grew up tonight and this game will pay big dividends down the road.”

Each team lost key players to fouls as the game became a battle of attrition. But the story was the battle between the two rivals’ stars that cemented the game as an instant classic.

“They are good friends. They were talking a little trash to each other and they both play on the same AAU team,” Brown said. “Stephen is a great kid and they brought out the best in each other. Both guys played a heck of a ballgame.”

Croone’s 3-pointer from 35 feet away at the horn in the fourth quarter forced the first overtime. After missing three free throws that would have brought Newton to within two late in the fourth, Croone made up for it when he took the inbounds pass with five seconds to play and pulled up just past half court for the game-tying shot.

Alcovy didn’t crack. Instead the Tigers bounced back to score the first point of overtime and the two teams settled into a battle of will. 

“As hard as the guys played, I didn’t want them to feel a letdown,” Brown said. “That was a great shot by (Stephen). They did everything we asked. We forced him to his right and had a hand in his face; it just dropped. At that point our thing was to not let that determine the game. All that did was tie it up.”

Both teams made plays down the stretch. Edwards and Croone traded threes and big shots in the first overtime and Michael Tucker’s two free throws with 1.4 seconds left in the second overtime tied the game at 71-71 to set up the decisive period.

Edwards fouled out late in the second overtime period and Tucker picked up the slack, scoring four points and coming up with a key offensive rebound. Tucker also had a key 3-pointer with 2:19 left in the fourth quarter that gave the Tigers a 47-45 lead.

After a lackluster first half which saw the two teams combine for 31 points, things intensified in the second half and reached a fever pitch from midway through the fourth quarter on.

It started in the third quarter when Justin Thompson fueled a 10-2 run with a seven-point burst including two three-point plays. Thompson second layup and free throw gave the Rams a 32-30 lead before Edwards hit a bucket at the end of the period to tie the game.

The Rams took a 43-37 lead with 5:11 on a Croone three before Edwards responded with a pair of free throws then a three to make it a one-point game. Edwards was 10 of 11 from the line for the game.

Shane Henry also came up big in the fourth quarter. His three-point play gave the Rams a one-point lead early in the quarter and his dunk after Edwards’ three pushed Newton’s lead back to three. Henry also hit a free throw to open the first overtime period.

After Croone’s heroics at the end of regulation, he kept it going in the first overtime. So did Edwards for that matter. First Croone’s free throws gave the Rams a two-point lead. Then Edwards tied it with a pair of his own. 

Alcovy and Newton put on perhaps the most thrilling show two basketball teams could Saturday. After three overtimes and close to three hours of dueling back and forth, it was the Tigers who emerged with a 79-77 win. 

“That was a great ballgame from start to finish,” Alcovy coach Eugene Brown said. “Both teams started off a little slow with the scoring but once we got into the second half, guys started feeling more comfortable and shots started falling and the game just kept going.”

Alcovy’s Devon Edwards and Newton’s Stephen Croone each put their team on their backs down the stretch in the fourth quarter and throughout the overtime periods. After both scored four points in the first half, the duo finished with 34 and 36 points respectively. Edwards’ 34 tied a career high while Croone’s 36 were his personal best.

“That was a war,” Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. “I thought we grew up tonight. I really did. We’re not as much a veteran group as we were last year and we’re still young and don’t have as many leaders yet but I thought we grew up tonight and this game will pay big dividends down the road.”

Each team lost key players to fouls as the game Alcovy was clutch from the line when it mattered most. A pair of free throws from Dee Williams gave the Tigers a 64-61 but Alcovy fouled Croone on a 3-point attempt again in the closing moments of the period. Croone made 2-of-3 but made up for his lone miss with a three-point play after a Newton stop.

“Devon had a bad game the night before, and we just told him he didn’t have to do it all himself. But he was feeling it in the third and fourth quarters and took it upon himself to lead us down the stretch,” Brown said. “Stephen was doing the same thing for them. He was coming right back at him and everything we tried to throw at him, he still made shots.”

Tucker was fouled with 1.4 seconds left and hit both free throws to force a second overtime. In the second overtime period, Devin Gerald hit his only 3-pointer of the game to open the scoring. After a Newton free throw, Croone gave the Rams a 70-69 lead with another 3-pointer. 

Edwards fouled out with 47 seconds left in the period and Kishon Rogers quickly made it a two-point game when he made 1-of-2 free throws. Tucker struck again when he snagged an offensive rebound and scored on a putback to tie the game at 71-71 and force a third overtime.

Tucker’s bucket gave the Tigers a two-point lead to open the third overtime and Alcovy led 74-72 before Rogers tied it on a nifty baseline layup. Tucker hit two free throws and the Tigers built a three-point lead only to see Croone erase it with yet another bucket from beyond the arc. That was all the Rams had left. 

Down 79-77, Newton had two cracks at forcing a fourth overtime but came up empty both times.

“We knew it was going to be a war and I honestly thought it would come down to a one-possession game,” Rasmussen said. “I told the guys in the locker room to go back and think about all the little things that could have made a difference. Overall I thought it was a great game though. We fought hard and never gave up. You have to give credit to both teams because it was a great game. It’s one of those that, you know — you can’t wait to play again.”

The win was Alcovy’s second straight over Newton and both have come on the road. Newton still holds an 8-3 edge overall. The two teams meet again Jan. 14 in the second of two games this year.

“Over the first four years we’ve been putting a team together. We feel like we should have got that first one (from Newton) last year but to their credit they won it,” Brown said. “So we just want to build on this. Our guys have become avid basketball players and they work on their game very hard. They play during the offseason and are striving to help us build this program. It’s all a part of the process and we’re trying to get to where Newton is.”

 

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