C.J. Fritz picked a fine to score his only points in another high-intensity McCallie-Baylor basketball game.
Fritz, scoreless throughout regulation and 3 minutes and 55 seconds of overtime, threw up an over-the-shoulder layup with five seconds left to give the Blue Tornado a 53-52 victory over the Red Raiders, 53-52, Saturday night before a packed house in tiny James Duke Arena.
“Just another typical Baylor-McCallie game,” said Blue Tornado coach Dan Wadley, who on Friday posted his 600th career victory with a win at Brentwood Academy. “They beat us by two earlier and we beat them by one on a shot at the end. Who knows what the next game will be like when we play them at our place.”
With neither team able to salt away the win in regulation, Baylor’s Matt Clendenen, who scored a game-high 23 points, made two free throws to give the Red Raiders a 52-51 lead with 17.8 seconds remaining.
Baylor, which normally relies on a pesky matchup zone defense, was in a man-to-man as the final seconds ticked down.
Fritz took a pass on the perimeter.
He took a step right and then dribbled past Baylor sophomore Spencer King and zipped to the hoop to put up an acrobatic shot while his back was practically to the goal. The ball spun off the backboard and tickled the twine on the way down.
“That was probably the biggest shot I’ve made in my career at McCallie,” Fritz said. “I saw how he (King) was playing me on my left because I’m left-handed. I called for a screen, but he jumped it and I just did a little in and out and ran by him to make the layup.”
Fritz said he told Wadley to get him to the lane and he could make an easy layup.
As it turned out, the shot was anything but stress-free.
“C.J. is really fast,” Clendenen said. “Spencer had to get back on him so he wouldn’t drive. C.J. was able to beat him off the dribble and get to the rim. He takes a lot of shots off a quick step like that, so I knew there was a chance the ball was going in.”
Said Red Raiders coach Austin Clark: “I thought we were doing a good job trapping them some out of the man defense. In hindsight, we probably could have been in a zone on that last play. We were just too high in the man. We wanted to be back because of the speed. Because of the adrenaline we got excited and were up too high.
“(Fritz) almost missed it, but he made it and that’s all that matters. That was a great shot and that’s what happens in great games. It was a typical Baylor-McCallie game and I congratulate them for making the final play.”
Baylor (10-6, 1-2 Division II-AA East/Middle Region) had enough time to get off a desperation shot – albeit contested – just inside the mid-court line, but it was far off the mark.
“We had enough sense not to celebrate after C.J.’s shot and got back to play defense,” Wadley said. “I thought we got up on them and forced them into a really bad shot.”
Adrian Thomas led the Blue Tornado (8-9, 3-0) with 13 points, JaVaughn Craig scored 12 and Cam Walker came off the bench to score 11.
Sammy Lupas added 10 points for the Red Raiders, who defeated the Blue Tornado 50-48 in December in the Best of Preps tournament at Chattanooga State.
McCallie got off to a fast start, building a 12-4 lead, but after Craig’s 3 early in the second period gave the Tornado a 15-7 advantage, the Red Raiders’ offense got on track.
Lupas started and capped a 12-3 run that gave Baylor a 17-15 lead. Gage Upshaw hit a free throw, Adam Brogdon made two and Clendenen scored on a putback between Lupas’ scoring plays.
With the game tied at 33-all Lupas and Clendenen each dropped in layups and Baylor was up 37-33 with eight minutes to play.
Craig scored five straight points while Clendenen made one free throw and McCallie had a 49-46 spread with 56.2 seconds left in regulation.
At the other end Clendenen drove the lane for a layup and was fouled by Thomas. Clendenen made the free throw to convert the three-point play and tie the game and send it into overtime.
Clendenen went 9 for 16 from the foul line and collectively the Red Raiders were 11 of 27 – Gage Upshaw was 1 for 8. Brogdon hit the only charity toss he attempted.
“This is such an emotional game and the kids are under a great deal of stress on both teams,” Clark said. “It was an exciting game and both teams had chances to win before they did.”
McCallie was 10 of 17 from the stripe and Craig was cool under pressure, hitting 8 of 7.
“Both teams struggled,” Wadley said, “because of the enormity of the game. Some of these kids were shaking up there. I would have probably shot it like they did, too, but still guys on our side will never forget this. I’m really proud of our effort.”
It will be difficult for Baylor to forget the game as well.
“It’s pretty tough, especially for the seniors,” Clendenen said. “We were playing them at home for the last time. But we beat them in the BOP, so we’re 1-1. Hopefully, we can go to their place and get them over there.”
McCallie 12 12 9 16 4 – 53
Baylor 5 19 13 12 3 – 52
McCallie (53) – Fritz 2, Bowman, JaVaughn Craig 12, Adrian Thomas 13, Whitener 2, Alford 9, Clark 2, Atkins 2, Cam Walker 11.
Baylor (52) – Matt Clendenen 23, Giussani 4, Sammy Lupas 10, Upshaw 3, King 4, Maize 3, Brogdon 3, Seaberg 2.
3-Point Goals: McCallie 4 (Alford 3, Craig); Baylor 1 (Maize).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)