It looked like Huron was on cruise control through three quarters.
Then St. Mary Central Catholic rallied, closing a 20-point deficit to one before the Tigers were able to regain control for a 74-69 victory Tuesday night at The Den.
“For three quarters, I thought our kids played great, but in the fourth it looked like we were playing our first game again,” said Huron coach Bobby James. “I give our kids a lot of credit because they hung in there when we faced a lot of adversity.
“We knew they were going to make a run and they sure did, but at the end of the night, we’re walking out of here with a victory.”
The Tigers (9-5, 7-2) used a 17-2 spurt in the second quarter to take a 41-28 lead at the half and were up 53-33 with 2:02 left in the third quarter. The Panthers (12-4, 6-4) scored the last six points of the quarter, then turned up the pressure.
Melvin Jackson led the rally with 15 of his game-high 23 points, including five during a 10-0 spurt that helped the Panthers close to 66-65 with a minute to play.
“We wanted to make them pass,” James said. “We felt that if we could make them pass two or three or four times, they would get impatient and someone would chuck up a shot or two. We did that for three quarters.
“Then in the fourth, they were in the double-bonus quickly and they were beating us off the dribble. We were fouling and they were going to the line and we kept turning the ball over.”
Adam Storer helped Huron regain some control with a pair of close-range buckets around a Denarius Harris free throw, then Keegan Bollenbacher and Storer converted two free throw each in the final 20 seconds to put the game out of reach.
“Moral victories stink,” said SMCC coach Lyle Falknor. “We have to put ourselves in a position where we don’t have to come back on a good team like that. You just can’t dig a hole because it takes too much energy to get back.
“We got there, but we didn’t have the energy to get over the top.”
Both Bollenbacher and Storer finished with 20 points for the game, with Storer scoring 10 in the final quarter. Melvin Jackson led the Panther rally with
“Keegan is 5-9 and 120 pounds soaking wet, but he did a great job at the end,” James said. “We needed those two free throws at the end to get us up two possessions, and then Adam had another two big free throws. I’m proud as heck of those kids at the end of the game.”
Zach Souter added 11 points and eight rebounds, while Storer grabbed nine boards for the Tigers, who were 30 of 53 from the floor but committed 17 turnovers.
Trenton Zimmerman finished with 18 points after scoring 14 in the first half for the Panthers, with Harris adding 16 points and six rebounds.
“I thought we played hard the whole second half,” Falknor said. “I have no complaints about our overall effort. There were times when I thought we let down a little, but we just have to be a little smarter.
“I try not to overreact to things until I get a chance to evaluate things, but I can’t fault the effort. The kids are working hard, but its just a shame they couldn’t get over the hump tonight.”
Collin Crooks scored a game-high 14 points, including a bucket with 1.6 seconds remaining, to lead the Panthers to a 48-47 win in the junior varsity game. Jep Bloor scored 10 points and Sam James added nine for the Tigers.