Granby " Panther hoopsters win dramatic, come-from-behind thriller
Sky-Hi Daily News
If you weren’t at last Friday’s home basketball game, you missed one of the most exciting come-from-behind victories in Middle Park High School boys basketball history.
After trailing for the entire game against a tough, highly aggressive Lookout Academy team, the Panthers battled back and tied up the game with less than one second left in regulation play. Forcing the game into overtime, Middle Park then powered to an 89-78 win.
“It was an ugly win, but we somehow pulled it together to win it,” said coach Brian Reynolds.
Friday’s contest was the Panthers’ first game in Metro League play this season.
The first quarter of Friday’s game opened with Lookout Academy taking the lead 18-14 with aggressive play and some good shooting including a three-pointer. Middle Park tried to hang in tight with baskets by Ian Sutton, Sam Damon and Mike Schmidt, but the team’s performance was plagued by several turnovers.
“We had a total of 22 turnovers for that game,” Reynolds said. “Our goal in each game has been to keep under half that. It seemed like that whenever we’d get within two or three points of them, then boom, we’d have another turnover that would allow Lookout to score.”
In the second quarter, Lookout Academy continued to power ahead, increasing their advantage to as much as 13 points. At the same time, Middle Park’s shooting went flat, except for Panther senior Zilvinas Sutkus who was virtually a one-man army as he racked up 12 of the team’s 13 points for the quarter.
Middle Park entered halftime trailing 37-27. The Panthers’ fortunes did not improve as the third quarter began with Lookout making an assault on the basket to increase their lead to 14 points.
But just when it looked as if Middle Park was headed for an ignominious thrashing, the tide of battle turned.
It began with Panther junior Jordan Reynolds hitting both of his free throws, followed immediately by Sutton’s layup for two points. Sutkus then drilled the hoop for another two points.
Sam Damon kept Middle Park’s momentum going with another basket, followed by Sutton and Reynolds hitting four free throws in quick succession. Sutkus narrowed the scoring gap to one point with another hoop.
Lookout, which had seemed unable to stop the Panthers’ sudden surge, finally reacted by again widening its lead to four points with a basket and a free throw.
Middle Park’s Sam Damon then countered that by scoring two quick baskets to tie up the score at 50-50 in the final 45 seconds of the third quarter.
Middle Park’s stands went wild as Panther fans finally had something to cheer about, but Lookout had other plans. Its tough, self-confident players went back on the attack and retook the lead by six points in the waning seconds of the third quarter.
As the final quarter began, it looked as if Lookout had completely recaptured the momentum. By the last 2-1/2 minutes of regulation play, Lookout had increased its spread back up to 10 points with the score standing at 70-60 in its favor.
But then the miracle happened.
Sutton launched a long shot that drilled the basket for three points, which he then quickly followed with a layup for another two points. Lookout was only able to react with a single free-throw shot as Reynolds then charged back in to score another two points.
With only 32 seconds left, Sutton targeted the basket with another spectacular three-pointer to narrow the gap to one point. Twenty seconds later, he tied up the score 71-71 with a single free-throw shot.
With 13 seconds left, Lookout was not giving up. They immediately charged back down court to score and retake the lead 73-71.
Quickly getting the ball back, Middle Park sprinted back down the floor as the clocked ticked down. Driving for the basket, the Panthers’ Jordan Reynolds was fouled under the hoop.
With nine-tenths of a second left of the game clock, Reynolds stepped to the free-throw line. With the crowd cheering, he cooly drilled the basket with both his shots to tie the score 73-73 and force the game into overtime.
In the first three minutes of overtime, the Panthers took a narrow lead with baskets and free throws by Sutton and Damon, but Lookout hung in there tight.
Entering the final minute of play, one of Lookout’s players fouled out, and then a succession of fouls by its players handed free-throw shots to Sutton, Damon and Reynolds who drilled the basket time after time. The result was the 11-point final spread and the 89-78 victory for Middle Park.
“This was not the best game we’ve played,” coach Reynolds said. “We were maybe running on six cylinders instead of the eight we needed.”
In the individual stats, Sutton had a remarkable game. He led the team with an incredible 39 points, which set a new Middle Park boys basketball scoring record for a single game. The previous high score of 38 points was set by Mike Landa two years ago in a double-overtime game.
Following Sutton in the scoring stats was Sutkus with 17 points.
“Zilvinas was really strong in the second quarter when everyone else was fading. He kept the spark alive. He also made key rebounds in both the second and third quarters,” Reynolds said.
Also coming in for praise was Sam Damon. Along with his key shots, he was outstanding on defense, especially in the second half.
“Sam was a defensive maniac in the second half,” Reynolds said. “His 14 rebounds in that half were the most for anyone on the team.”
Coach Reynolds said he was particularly pleased with the team’s free-throw shooting. Sutton made 22 on 35 attempts while Jordan Reynolds was eight for 10. Jared Rojo made a key free throw in the fourth quarter.
While they did not get on the court Friday, Reynolds also wanted to praise three players on the varsity squad ” Andrew Clausen, D.J. Pritt and Mitch Sprague.
The Panthers will return to action Tuesday in another home game. They will host Nederland in a varsity game at 6:30 p.m.
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