Finishing its second season in its new gym last night, the Start boys basketball team may have created a nickname for their hoops home - the
In a span of two weeks, the Spartans have played four straight suspenseful City League games which have each seen the losing team fall after missing a chance to win or tie as the final horn sounded.
Start (12-4, 7-2) has won three of these nail-biters, the latest a 77-76 triumph over Rogers last night before a crowd of over 1,300.
Anthony Henderson led Start's comeback from a 12-point second-quarter deficit, scoring 17 of his game-high 27 points after halftime. He got solid support from Devin Russell (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Marcus Gaines (15 points, 10 rebounds).
"I really think it's just makeup for last year when we lost all those tight games," first-year Start coach Ted Pasqualone said. "I just think the luck maybe turned our way.
"We're working extremely hard. Watching tape, I'm seeing us at the end of games where the other team is tired and we look like we're still ready to go."
The Spartans lost five of their seven games decided by three points or less last season. But they edged Central Catholic 66-64 in overtime here two weeks ago, nipped St. Francis de Sales 55-52 on Jan. 30, and fell to visiting Waite 66-65 last Friday.
Rogers (12-4, 6-3), in a tense struggle with Start to secure one of the four spots in the upcoming CL playoffs, walked away last night wondering, what if?
What if the Rams would have made any one of the six free throws they attempted in a remarkably nightmarish span of just 3.6 seconds, trailing 75-74 in the game's final 20.4 seconds.
Sophomore guard Damon Powell missed two at 20.4, rebounded himself, and drew another foul at 17.8. After Powell missed twice more, senior teammate Craig Short rebounded and was fouled at 16.8. He, too, missed both foul shots, and Start gained possession after the
second miss was deflected out of bounds.
Russell, Start's University of Toledo-bound 6-9 center, was then fouled, and calmly sank both of his chances with 12 seconds to play.
"We practice mental strength in practice and it just comes," Russell said of the tense wins. "It's all about heart. This is big. We haven't been to the final four in a long time, and we're just trying to make a difference."
Start hit 24 of its 31 free throws (77 percent) in the game compared to Rogers' 14-of-29 (48 percent).
"It shows good character for our team, and it shows we can win the close ones and we can win the big ones," Henderson said. "We just showed good composure. I guess it was meant for us to win after they missed those free throws."
Oddly, Rogers opted not to
attempt a 3-point shot in the final 12 seconds and, when Dalante Heard's layup did not draw a three-point-play opportunity, the finals seconds ticked off on the Rams' difficult loss.
Heard paced the Rams with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Quincey Caldwell had 18 points and nine boards, and Powell and Traymone Camak added 14 and 12 points, respectively.
"We've been shooting free throws bad all year," Rogers coach Earl Morris said. "I told them a long time ago, if you don't start making free throws, it's going to cost you a game. It happened tonight.
"We played them even up, and we just couldn't make free throws. That's the bottom line."
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