The Leesville Mens’ Varsity Basketball team fell 79-75 to Cap-8 rival Sanderson in double overtime on Friday, Jan. 3, failing to translate a rousing second-half comeback and double-overtime lead into a much-needed conference victory.
A three-point shot by Sanders Rohs, senior, tied the game at 57-57 as the buzzer to end regulation sounded, bringing the home crowd to its feet. Brandon Staves, senior, then hit two free-throws to tie the game at 63-63 with 13 seconds remaining in overtime, but a half-court heave from Alex Hunter, freshman, sailed wide and the game moved into another four-minute frame.
The Pride held a 67-65 advantage with just 1:32 remaining in double overtime; the visiting Spartans, however, were able to put together an eight-point run to take a 73-67 lead with 44.5 seconds left and held on for the win.
Leesville (0-3, 3-7) was led by Rohs’ 24 points, the vast majority of which came from long distance. Staves added 14 while Jonathan Mebane and Alex Hunter, freshmen, scored 13 and nine, respectively. Grayson Kelley, junior, chimed in with 11 points off the bench. Ben Zemonek, sophomore, had four.
However, the Pride struggled mightily to contain the perimeter presences of Sanderson (2-1, 7-6) starters Sam Johnson and Chase Gower, who were both nearly unstoppable from three-point range.
“Some missed free throws and some missed defensive assignments throughout the game caused some problems,” said Russ Frazier, head coach. “It was a great effort by both teams; [the] boys played hard. We did what we had to do, we just came up short.”
The visitors held a convincing lead during much of a sloppy first half. Sanderson opened the game with a quick dunk and led 8-2 early, 26-14 with three minutes left in the second quarter and 30-22 at halftime.
However, Leesville came out firing after the break, scoring six of the second half’s first seven points to cut the deficit to 31-28. A trio of three-point bombs in closing minute of the third quarter gave Leesville their first lead at 44-41 as the fourth frame began.
The Spartans fought back tenaciously, though, and soon seemed to be within inches of sealing the victory in regulation. A defensive rebound after Mebane missed a desperate jump shot gave Sanderson two free throw attempts with 11.4 seconds left and a 56-54 lead.
But the second try rimmed out, and Hunter snared an offensive rebound after Kelley’s three-point attempt at the other end bounced off the backboard. He dished the ball over to Rohs just outside the arc, and Leesville’s biggest shooting threat swished his attempt as the clock hit zero.
Sanderson appeared poised to seal the victory late in the first overtime, as well, possessing the ball with a 63-61 lead entering the final 30 seconds. Nonetheless, an intercepted pass by Jethro Bajani, junior, led to Staves’ game-tying free throws with 13 seconds on the clock.
The match would not go on forever, though, as the Spartans’ near-perfect performance at the free-throw line during double overtime set them apart from the Pride at last.
“It was a tough one,” said Rohs after the final buzzer. “We just wanted to win and kept fighting [but] it just didn’t turn out for us in the end.”
“We just have to keep up the intensity the whole game. Right at the beginning, we have to play like it’s the end.”
Leesville should have an excellent opportunity to get their first Cap-8 win of the year when they travel to 0-9 Enloe next Tuesday. Gaining some closing confidence and adding a digit to the win column would go a long way for this young Pride basketball squad, which has struggled to pull out the victory in a plethora of close contests.
“[We were] just doing what we do best: playing together, playing smart,” said a disappointed but generally pleased Frazier. “We did some good stuff, but we’ve still got to learn to close games.”