By MITZI THOMPSON
BORDEN — Good old-fashioned, down-to-the wire Indiana High School basketball played in an atmosphere that no words could do justice was featured in the championship game of the Class A Borden Sectional, as gritty and battle-tested Lanesville outlasted Rock Creek in overtime, 68-65 in overtime on Saturday.
The 15-8 Eagles now move on to Saturday’s Loogootee Regional, where they will face Northeast Dubois (11-12) in the 1 p.m. first-round game, but that advancement wasn’t a certainty until the final buzzer sounded Saturday night.
After fighting back from a double-possession deficit, Rock Creek put the game into an extra session with a four-point swing in the last 1 minute, 38 seconds of regulation.
The teams exchanged blows for the first three minutes of overtime — trading baskets and one-point leads — but Rock Creek went scoreless after going up 65-64 with one minute remaining and never had an open, uncontested look at the basket again.
“That was just amazing basketball,” said Lanesville coach Mikel Miller, whose team lost to Borden in the championship game last season. “These were two very good teams playing against each other, back and forth, back and forth, and it literally came down to one possession. I told my guys at that last timeout [with just under 40 seconds to go] that if we can get just one more stop, we’ve got it. If we can just get a stop and get our free throws to drop, we can win it.”
That’s what happened.
Leading 66-65, Lanesville’s Ryan Fulkerson picked off an errant Lions’ pass then dished it off to teammate Joe Ferree, who was then fouled and sent to the stripe for the double-bonus with 27 seconds remaining. Ferree hit the first; The second was rebounded by Rock Creek’s Gedeon Nzombi and passed off to Lion guard Will Brown, who dribbled into the paint for a hand-in-the-face jumpshot that missed its mark. Eagles junior Matthew Husband was fouled on the rebound with 6.2 seconds left and hit one of two free throws, which gave the game its final score.
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.
Nzombi finished the game with 17 points to go with his 18 rebounds. Teammate Devin Burt — the sole Rock Creek starter who will graduate from this season’s 15-10 team — finished with 16 points and seven boards. Will Brown scored 13 and handed out three assists.
Lanesville sophomore Joe Ferree led the Eagles with 21 points, while Husband added 20 points and Harmon collected a team-high nine rebounds.
CLASS A BORDEN SECTIONAL
LANESVILLE 68, ROCK CREEK 65 OT
Rock Creek 13 17 14 14 7—65
Lanesville 17 16 12 13 10—68
Rock Creek (15-10): Gedeon Nzombi 17, Devin Burt 16, Will Brown 13, Ronald Karenzi 10, TJ Hayes 5, Tanner Gerth 4.
Lanesville (14-8): Joe Ferree 21, Matt Husband 20, Ryan Fulkerson 10, Jack Ferree 10, Jason Harmon 4, Tate Stilger 3. .
3-point field goals: Rock Creek 3 (Hayes, Brown, Gerth); Lanesville 5 (Joe Ferree 4, Stilger).
Rebounds: Rock Creek 38 (Nzombi 18); Lanesville 30 (Harmon 9).
Turnovers: Rock Creek 16, Lanesville 11.