Nzombi picked up the rebound off the missed free throw once again — the junior forward’s 18th board of the game -- and passed to guard Tanner Gerth, whose ensuing last-second, off-balance 3-point attempt didn’t connect.
“We had our chances,” said Rock Creek coach Chris Brown, who cited the Lions’ paltry 12 of 22 free throw shooting as the biggest difference maker. “In a close game, you can’t have that. The guys are in the locker room right now saying ‘I wish I could go back and practice shooting free throws more,’ but it’s not like we’re not capable of making them and it’s not like we haven’t practiced. In fact, everybody hit 50 free throws in practice before coming to the game tonight, so what do ya do?”
Most of the Lions’ free throw woes came in the second half and during times that could have given them the lead. Trailing 58-57 with less than a minute remaining in regulation, Lanesville power forward Jason Harmon picked up his fifth foul and Nzombi hit one of the two free throws to tie things at 58s.
Fifty ticks later, Lanesville’s Jack Ferree missed what could have been the game winning bucket. The rebound went to Rock Creek, which inbounded under Lanesville’s basket with 2.8 seconds remaining. Gerth got off a half-court shot that briefly stilled the raucous crowd, missing by mere inches and sending it into overtime.
“It was a phenomenal game,” said Chris Brown. “I was proud of how we crawled back in it after getting down early on. It’s an honor to be a part of such a great game, but it really stinks to come out on the losing end of it.”
The Lions started the game off with a run — showcasing their athleticism inside and strong guard play outside — and went up 10-2. Lanesville answered back 13-1 and held the advantage the rest of the way until Nzombi scored four straight points to tie the game at 40-40 in the third quarter.