BY JON REITER
In a thrilling late regular season matchup between two of the area's top teams, No. 9 A Borden outlasted No. 6 2A Clarksville in overtime, 56-55, in front of a raucous home crowd on Senior Night.
Forward Michael Lynch's baseline jumper with 7.2 seconds left gave the Braves (15-3) the lead before Clarksville's final possession. With time running down, General forward Aidan McEwen found Jermargio Smith for a short jumper, but Smith's shot missed and Borden was able to capture the win.
In a well-played contest, the Generals (14-5) only turned the ball over one time in regulation but gave the ball away three times inside the final three minutes of overtime. That was unexpected — and disappointing — Clarksville coach Jason Connell said.
"We're a team that has experience and to be honest, we gave the game away by doing that," Connell said. "If we want to be a team that wins a sectional, and we've got all the ingredients to do that, we just can't do that.
"They're devastated right now by this. They should be. I am too."
Throughout the game in the halfcourt, the Generals moved the ball around the perimeter quickly and crisply, finding three-point shooters who were willing to fire at the basket from all angles. They shot 7-of-15 from beyond the arc in the first half, with junior point guard Calvin McEwen connecting on 4-of-8 of those attempts to lead the visitors to a 29-25 lead at intermission.
The host Braves went for a more conventional attack, working the ball into the paint and finding success with senior forward Michael Lynch, whose 9 points led the Braves in the first half. Not only did the Braves score all their first-half points on two-point baskets and free throws, they didn't even attempt a three-pointer in the first half.
The score was 37-34 at the end of the third quarter, but Borden forward Jalen McCoy nailed a 3-pointer to knot it at 37 on the Braves' first possession of the fourth quarter. Calvin McEwen immediately answered with a 3-pointer for Clarksville, and from from that point on, the next six possessions resulted in either a tie or lead change.
Billy Kirchgessner sank two free throws for Borden to give the Braves a 52-49 lead with 14 seconds left, after which, Connell called a time out. Junior guard Andrew Jones, who was scoreless going into the fourth quarter, nailed a three-pointer at the top of the key with 1.5 seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Jones, who scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, sank another trey with 3:24 remaining to make it 55-52 Clarksville. Kirchgessner later came up with a steal and basket for Borden with 2:39 remaining to give the Braves a one-point lead.
With 34.7 seconds left, Smith was fouled, but the senior missed the front end of a one-and-one, setting up Lynch's game-winning shot.
Borden coach Doc Nash, who had been critical of his team's effort of late, was ecstatic with the win. He marveled at the fact that Clarksville committed only four turnovers and sank 13 three pointers in front of a hostile crowd, yet his squad managed to get the victory.
"That's a good, very good basketball team," he said of Clarksville. "Really, I'm just very happy at the way our guys competed tonight. I haven't seen a whole lot of that - the willingness to really fight - out of them lately. It was great to see."
Calvin McEwen led Clarksville with 22 points, connecting on 5 of 11 3-point attempts. Lynch led Borden with 17.
The Braves finish out the regular season next week by playing two road games; they're at West Washington Tuesday and Salem on Friday. Clarksville plays their final game of the regular season at Henryville Tuesday night.