For the Grace Academy senior basketball players, Tuesday's senior night will likely be remembered as a game of missed opportunities.
Arts & Sciences was more than happy to seize them.
The visiting Patriots pulled away in the third quarter and, with help from a string of seven straight missed Golden Eagles free throws, held on in the fourth for a 48-40 District 5-A victory.
"We've played really well in our last two games, and it was a great effort tonight," CSAS coach Mark Dragoo said. "I would've like to have held them to a little bit less than 40, but we held them to 40. It was their senior night. They wanted to win this one."
Tuesday's first quarter ended with the score knotted at 9-9, one of six first-half ties in the matchup between the district rivals. Chaison Gordon's three-point play with 50.7 seconds remaining put the Patriots up by five, the biggest lead for either team at that point in the contest. CSAS connected on three more foul shots before the end of the period, and took a 25-19 advantage into halftime.
In the third quarter, Arts & Sciences took control of the boards and built a 13-point advantage after a 3-pointer from Brandon Houston, two more free throws from Gordon, and a basket from Shunn Moorer.
"We had a great effort defensively and did a great job on the boards.," Dragoo said. "We've been working hard on that, we've been working hard on our pressure defense, and it's coming around. This is the first time we've been two games above .500 since December. We've just been up and down, and struggling with our identity. Now we've had three wins in a row against good teams."
The Golden Eagles (8-12, 3-4) chipped away at their deficit in the third quarter and were within 42-35 with 3:50 remaining. Over the next minute, each of their three possessions resulted in a drive to the basket and an ensuing trip to the foul line, but none of those shots connected.
"Our main talk after the game was that we have to quit not rewarding our efforts," Grace coach Jon Mattheiss said. "We would drive well, get to the basket, get fouled, and then go miss our free throws. We were in the midst of a great opportunity to come back, because we kept stopping them. But then we would go down, get fouled and not reward ourselves, or drive to the basket and then miss the layup. We created some opportunities; we just didn't cash in on them."
While the Golden Eagles' missed free throws in the final 3:50 would've been enough to tie the game, CSAS responded by going 6-for-8 from the line in the final 2:40 to secure the 48-40 victory. Gordon led the Patriots with 12 points, while Patrick Taylor added 10 and Nick Moore finished with nine. With the win, Arts & Sciences (12-10, 5-1) preserved its first-place tie with Boyd-Buchanan, and remains in contention to win the regular-season title outright.
The loss dropped the Golden Eagles to 8-12 overall and 3-4 in the district as the regular season enters its final full week. Although pleased with his team's defensive effort, Mattheiss, whose team was held without a double-digit scorer, will need to see more offense from the Golden Eagles if they are to make an impact when postseason play begins.
"The positive is that the effort was definitely there and we played really hard on defense," he said. "The negative is that if we don't do a better job finishing on offense, it doesn't matter how well we play on defense. We'd have to hold teams to 20 or 30 points to win, because we're just not getting the job done. If you go all the way to the hole, you've got to make the layup."
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org
ARTS & SCIENCES 48, GRACE ACADEMY 40
CSAS 9 16 13 10 -- 48
Grace 9 10 8 13 -- 40
CSAS (48) -- O'Hare, Brown, Carter, Patrick Taylor 10, Chaison Gordon 12, Davenport 8, Hourston 6, Moore 9, Moorer 3.
Grace (40) -- Slack 7, Swanson 5, Hernandez 7, Smith 2, Savard 2, Tisdale 4, Godsey, McQueen 4, Powell 9.
3-point goals: CSAS 1 (Houston); Grace 1 (Swanson).
ARTS & SCIENCES GIRLS 51, GRACE ACADEMY 36
CSAS 13 9 10 19 -- 51
Grace 12 2 11 11 -- 36
CSAS (51) -- Moffett 2, Little 9, K. Billen 5, McElvan 2, Brooke Mitchell 16, Lee, Montgomery 2, R. Billen 9, Smith 6.
Grace (36) -- Ransby, Mouw 1, Turner, Gill 4, Jemane, Bonner 9, Goodman 1, Compton 1, Sierra Nunley 12, Carter, McMasters 4, Ruefernaught 4.
3-point goals: CSAS none; Grace 2 (Nunley 2).