BY MIKE RILEY
Sometimes the best learned lessons are learned by accident.
Take the Charlestown Pirates boys basketball team. Due to a college recruiting visit, senior guard Aaron Daniel was not at practice on Thursday.
And that made Coach Sean Smith take notice. How would his team play without Daniel if they had to? He found out sooner than he would have liked.
Daniel went to the bench after picking up his fourth foul near the midway point of the third quarter of the Pirates’ Mid-Southern Conference matchup with Eastern on Friday at the Charlestown Sports Complex.
The Pirates responded well. With starter Tyler Combs and reserves Drew Reich and Keigan Fetz making key plays down the stretch, Charlestown (7-4, 3-1 MSC) stayed in the thick of the Mid-Southern Conference race with a 68-66 victory over the visiting Musketeers.
Combs had five fourth quarter points, including 1-of-2 at the line with 3.8 seconds left. He also had 2-of-2 at the line and a basket back to back to extend the Pirates lead from 60-59 to 64-59 with less than two minutes left.
Fetz had five points in the fourth quarter as he hit a big 3-pointer to cut a four-point deficit to 54-53. He then calmly sank 2-of 2 at the line with 20 seconds left to extend a two-point Charlestown lead to 67-63.
And it was Reich who scored allowing the Pirates to take the lead back at 57-56, then hit 1-of-2 at the line with 45 seconds left for a 65-61 advantage.
After Combs made the second of two free throws, Eastern (4-8, 2-4) called a timeout with still 3.8 showing on the clock. The ball went to R.J. Jackson.
Jackson, who hit a big 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left to pull the Musketeers to within one, launched this one from what appeared to be just inside of the arc from straight out. But it came up short as time expired.
“We’ve seemed to have been in these situations before,” Smith said. “With the kids’ intensity and desire to win, we seem to come out on top.
“I was wondering yesterday if we were put in a situation where we didn’t have Aaron, who would step up. Tyler, Keigan and Drew all stepped up tonight.”
Charlestown got their usual steady game from Chris Braun, who tied Eastern’s Tevin Wolf for game scoring honors with 21 points. Daniel, who had an immediate impact on the game when he returned in the fourth quarter, finished with 10 points.
Eastern played well enough to win on most nights, including a 33-25 advantage on the boards, but it seemed as whenever the Musketeers needed the big basket or the big stop for a momentum swing. It didn’t happen.
“That’s what I talked to the kids about after the game,” said Eastern coach Scott Newconb. “We had some small leads but could never make the play where we go from 2-4 points ahead to 6-8 points ahead. Charlestown, meanwhile, did a great job of doing that.
“When you go on the road, you figure if you rebound, take care of the ball and make free throws that you’ll come out on top,” Newcomb added. “We did that tonight, but it didn’t happen.”
Charlestown led 33-27 at halftime, but Eastern erased that lead quicklly with an 8-2 run to tie the game at 35. But Cody Donahue then immediately drilled a 3-pointer to put the Pirates back on top.
Jackson had 17 points for Eastern, while Jack Hayes added 13.
“I can’t say anyone played bad for us tonight and Tevin Wolf had a breakout game,” Newcomb said.
Charlestown will travel to Madison Shawe tonight before heading to Brownstown next Friday. Clarksville and Brownstown are still undefeated in conference play.
“We’re going to have to steal some games on the road,” Smith said. “I think we have three or four in row on the road, then play four of our last five at home.”