Knights grab huge victory in overtime


By Paul Evers, sports editor
The boys’ basketball team won the game against the Conant Cougars on free throws. With the game tied up at 55 at the end of regulation on Tuesday night, Jan. 10, the Knights hit 6 of 8 free throws to beat the Cougars by a score of 61-58 by not making a field goal in overtime.
Senior Frankie Mack led all scorers with 22 points on 6-11 (55 percent) shooting, while opposing senior star Jimmy Sotos was held to 8 points by the Knights’ defense.
“We worked hard on trying to defend their half court and obviously take Sotos out of what he was trying to do,” coach John Camardella said.
With 1:15 remaining in the 4th quarter, the Knights held a 7 point lead over the Cougars after Mack hit a pair of free throws.
However, Conant fought back with a 7-0 run in the next 35 seconds to force overtime. The Knights struggled against the Conant press at the end, committing two key turnovers during that stretch.
“That’s why the game is never over against a team of that caliber,” Camardella said.
Camardella said that defending against end of game situations is tough for a team to learn.
“The thing about runs, especially at the end of a game, it’s uncharacteristic for everyone,” Camardella said. “It gets teams like Conant to play at a pace and do things that they aren’t accustomed to doing, and it puts us in positions that no matter how hard you practice it, it’s very hard to mirror.”
In overtime, the first point wasn’t scored until senior Michael Ritchie (10 points, 5 rebounds) hit the front end of a 1 and 1 bonus with 2:39 remaining. After defensive stops from both teams, Mack was fouled coming up the sideline with 52.3 seconds remaining. He hit both of his free throws to give the Knights a 58-55 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Sotos took a deep three that was off-line and to the left and bounced to junior guard David Swedura (14 points). Mack was intentionally fouled and hit two free throws, and the game seemed like once again it was comfortably in the hands of the Knights with 37 seconds remaining.
Conant junior Ben Schols (14 points) quickly dashed those comforts by hitting a three-point shot from the corner to give the Cougars new hope. On the inbounds, the Knights got it to Mack but almost lost possession when he was doubled teamed by two Conant players up against the baseline. The Knights called a timeout to give themselves another chance to inbound the ball.
On the next inbounds, senior center Matt Szuba (5 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists) got the ball and found Mack at center court. But Conant senior CJ DeShazer knocked the ball away before Mack could fully gain control and broke out to what seemed like a game-tying layup attempt.
Instead DeShazer threw an offline pass to the corner for Sotos who was doubled and was forced to call a timeout for the Cougars with 12 seconds remaining. With a chance to tie the game, the Cougars instead elected to have senior center Ryan Davis (12 points, 25 percent 3PT percent) shot a three-pointer to win the game.
The shot bounced around the rim three times before finally falling into the hands of Szuba. He was fouled, and with a chance to seal the game, Szuba stepped up to the line.
Still the drama continued, Szuba first throw rimmed out keeping it a two point game. He made his second attempt to give the Knights a 61-58 lead with 6.9 seconds remaining. The Cougars pushed the ball up, and got an open three from the corner for senior guard Danny Ranallo (9 points). His attempt was long off the rim, and the Knights finally could celebrate their victory.
“It was just a really good MSL game,” Camardella said. “A game of runs back and forth, build up a lead, they take the lead, build up another lead, they tie it.”
In terms of recovering from losing a late lead, Camardella never panicked about his team.
“They know how to do it, they’re old enough, they’re experienced enough,” Camardella said. “Make free throws down the stretch, defend the arc best we could, it’s a make or miss game sometimes. Some shots go in, sometimes they don’t.”
Camardella said that before overtime, it was a very clear message in the huddle.
“‘Next play,’” Camardella said. “We always say that. It’s just a matter of focusing on where they’re at and where you’re going. Whenever we’re ‘where we’re at’, the game is not over. I told our guys that a couple times. Matt Szuba celebrated for a moment, I pulled him over and said, ‘Stop, the game is not over.’ All these things back forth, it’s just not over.”
After the big win over Conant, the Knights are looking to take Elk Grove in a Friday night MSL East tilt.
“Elk Grove is next, they are the last East Division opponent for the first round,” Camardella said. “So after Friday we’ll be halfway done with the East Season and heading downhill from there, trying to get a division title.”