By Larry Oliver
ALEXANDRIA, IN – Friday night produced one of the most exciting finishes so far this season as CIC rivals Alexandria and Eastbrook went to battle in a game was not decided until the final horn. The Panthers dominated early, but it was Alexandria who continued to fight hard throughout as they clawed their way back into the game, and then hit the game winning shot with 3.5 seconds remaining to grab their first win of the season 63-62.
The Tigers had to feel the pressure before the game even started. Head Coach Chad Wetz had to sit the game out due to his ejection in the previous contest, and leading scorer Landon Breese was out with an injury. “Doesn’t matter,” said Assistant Coach Adam Hollingsworth who was filling in for Wetz. “We have nine other guys, even more including the JV players who dressed, and somebody has to step up and play. Those guys have to understand that everybody is a part of this team, and when one guys is out somebody else has to come in and fill that spot. Landon Breese is some pretty big shoes to fill. We would have liked to have him on the court, but he wasn’t, so other people stepped in.”
“To be honest,” added Hollingsworth, “I was more nervous about coaching my first varsity game.”
Alexandria jumped out 6-2 to start the game before the Panthers finished the quarter on an 11-0 run to lead the Tigers 13-6.
The second quarter started out much like the first as Eastbrook increased the lead to double-figures before the Tigers began to fight their way back. Sophomore Braden Warren scored six points for Alex in the period as the Tigers took the lead to 26-24 at the half.
The second half seemed to spark an entirely different approach as Alex came out firing on all cylinders. Layton Carroll scored 11 consecutive points, including three 3’s, and he hit 4-of-5 from downtown in the quarter to lead the Tigers with 14 points. Eastbrook wouldn’t back down though, and kept pace as the quarter ended with Alex up 48-46.
“Layton is a guy that knows basketball,” said Hollingsworth. “He made a couple mistakes early in the third, but then turned it up and started making plays. I have full confidence in him. He is a guy that is fully capable of hitting the shots and he did tonight.”
The Panthers started to take control in the fourth and led by as many as six points, but with fewer than two minutes remaining the Tigers began to fight back. Leading by one, Eastbrook went to the free throw line and missed. Alex got the rebound and raced down the floor. Braden warren put up a three from the corner and missed. The ball bounced around as no one grabbed the rebound. First is was tipped by Jonah Jerrils, then Blaize Kelly got a hand on it before it ended up back in the hands of Warren under the basket after he followed his shot. Warren made the second attempt with 3.5 seconds remaining, and Jacob Singer’s shot at the buzzer was off the rim giving the Tigers their first win of the season.
When Alex was putting a play together in a timeout at the end, it was Warren who spoke up and wanted the ball. “I told the coaches that I wanted the ball,” Warren said. “I missed the three, but I followed the shot and put it back in. It was a good team win. Jonah (Jerrils) tipped the ball, and then Blaize (Kelly) tipped it and it came back to me under the basket and I put it up.”
Warren also commented on the play of teammate Layton Carroll throughout the game. “I love that kid,” Warren said. “He hasn’t been shooting great from the field so far this season, but tonight he was hitting the shots. He is an amazing player.”
Alexandria was led in scoring by Layton Carroll with 18 points and Braden Warren with 17. Other scorers included Blaize Kelly with 10, Jonah Jerrils with eight, Evan Hodges and Jake Thurston each with four and Brandon Wright with two. Warren also led the Tigers with seven rebounds and Jake Fox had a team-high five assists. The Panthers were led in scoring by Jacob Singer with a game-high 28 points. No other Eastbrook player finished in double-figures.
“The game is so up and down,” Hollingsworth said. “Players make mistakes and you can’t judge things by every little play. Guys make mistakes and then they get down the floor and do something good the next time. You can’t let one play get you down. It’s basketball, and you just have to keep going.”
Alexandria’s Junior Varsity fought hard and got their third win of the year 55-42 over the Panthers. Drew Johnson led the way for Alexandria with 31 points and Bryce Montgomery added 13.
Alexandria (1-6, 1-1 in CIC) will be in action Dec. 8th when they host University.