The Doherty boys’ basketball team stepped onto the court in the fourth quarter looking at a 14-point deficit to Pine Creek and just eight minutes to play.
But the Spartans were all thinking the same thing.
“We ain’t going to lose,” said sophomore Brody Gish. “We weren’t going to hunker down and lose by 24 or something. We were going to give it our best fight and try to come back.”
And they did.
Doherty outscored Pine Creek 18-4 in the last frame, forcing overtime tied at 51. From there the Spartans capitalized on the Eagles’ shooting troubles to claim the overtime victory 63-58.
The last time the two 5A/4A CSML foes clashed, Doherty held an eight-point lead at halftime, but the Eagles dominated the second half to complete the comeback win. With that memory fresh in their minds, coach Eric Steinert challenged the Spartans at halftime.
“I said if they can do it to you, why can’t you do it to them?”
Gish opened up the second half with an easy 3-pointer, one of his five of the night, but it wasn’t until junior Lucas Moerman slammed a dunk at the end of the third quarter that the Spartans really found their spark. Moerman collected each rebound from three missed shots in a row before slamming it away.
“Finally I was like I have to get it in,” Moerman said. “It was partly the frustration. That gives you the extra energy and the extra inch to make the dunk.”
In the midst of their fourth-quarter comeback Moerman was set up for an alley-oop by AJ Guiao. His successful dunk put Doherty within two late in the fourth quarter.
“You can be that rah-rah team and say we are going to win, but when you get plays like that it becomes real,” Steinert said. “I think his last dunk it became really real for our guys. It helped us pick up our effort but it was just a great play by AJ and Luke.”
Moerman finished second on the team with 21 points, including six in overtime. He also had a team-high 14 rebounds to complete the double-double.
A pair of free throws by Trevor Oldervik tied the game at 51 with 1:24 to play in regulation.
While Doherty was buzzing in the fourth, Pine Creek struggled with getting shots to fall. And the team’s bad luck turned even worse when leading scorer and lone senior Grant Wilkinson went down with a scary injury at the end of regulation. Wilkinson went up for a layup and collided with two Doherty players. He was escorted by two trainers to the locker room and did not return.
“We don’t know anything conclusive, but it doesn’t look good for the rest of the season,” said Pine Creek coach Joe Rausch. “I think he’s as good as any player in our league, but the rest of our guys are juniors so it’s time for them to step up and be seniors the rest of the way.”
Rausch said Wilkinson, who also had a bad fall moments earlier in the fourth quarter, may have dislocated something, but the they don’t know for sure.
Wilkinson finished with 19 points -12 of which were scored in the first quarter alone off four 3-pointers.
“He had played a great game, he carried us the entire way up until that point when he got hurt,” Rausch said. “We were just hoping the guys would be able to eke one out and to try and get it done for Grant.”
Max Lofy finished with 11 points for Pine Creek and Peyton Westfall had nine.
“We were getting the shots we wanted but they just weren’t falling in the second half,” Rausch said. “We have a 44 percent 3-point shooter who was 2-of-11 tonight (Westfall) and it was just one of those nights. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but you have to give Doherty credit because they made that run and came back.”
It was the third win in a row for Doherty, and the third win without sophomore guard Schafer Reichart since his admittance to the hospital last week with a life-threatening infection.
His best friend, Gish, scored a career-high 23 points.
“I think Brody has always been a phenomenal player, with so many injuries and problems, he has had the opportunity to emerge and be this guy,” Steinert said. “He’s been phenomenal three nights in a row for us when we needed him the most.”