It really wouldn’t be a Grace Academy-Arts & Sciences boys’ basketball game if the outcome was decided before the final minute.
Tuesday night’s District 5-A matchup at CSAS was certainly no exception, as the Patriots gave up their early lead, trailed for two quarters, rallied to a nine-point advantage, then had to hold off the Golden Eagles’ furious comeback attempt. In the end, the Patriots held on for a 63-59 victory over their rivals that puts them at 4-2 in district play.
“We really felt like we were going to wear them down eventually,” Arts & Sciences coach Mark Dragoo said. “I think their shots in the fourth quarter really showed a lot of wear and tear. They shot unbelievably well the first three quarters, but then I think they just got tired, which was what we were hoping for.”
CSAS opened the game with 11 straight points from Josh Carter, but Chet Matheny helped Grace answer at the end of the period. His 10 first-quarter points got the Eagles in the game, and a 3-pointer from DeQuan Hughes with 21.6 seconds left tied the score at 20.
Eight points from Brandon McQueen and five more from Matheny, who finished with 17, helped Grace take a 35-33 lead into the break, and the Golden Eagles extended their advantage to five points twice in the third.
“Once we stopped their initial run, we started taking care of the ball, rebounding better, just little things like that,” Grace coach Jon Mattheiss said. “That’s exactly what we didn’t do at the end of the game. We didn’t rebound well, and we didn’t take care of the ball.”
A Darius Graves 3-pointer off an inbounds pass with two seconds left in the third got CSAS within 46-44. With 4:59 remaining in the fourth quarter, Carter scored to give his team its first lead since the 4:54 mark of the second.
“Josh started us off well offensively, but then we lost focus defensively,” Dragoo said. “We’ve been talking about how you can’t take any plays off. You have to be ready every play -- offense, defense, rebounding, everything.”
Nick Moore scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Patriots build a 59-50 advantage with 1:19 left to play. The Golden Eagles fought back with three key plays from Will Slack, including a basket with 1:09 left, a three-point play at the 48-second mark, and another score off a Blake Savard steal with 37.2 remaining.
That got Grace within 59-57, but Moore went 4-for-4 from the line for the Patriots the rest of the way to close out the 63-59 victory.
“I told the guys I was really proud of them because we were down 59-50 with a minute and half left, and we cut it all the way to two points,” Mattheiss said. “We didn’t stop. It was just heartbreaking to play that hard all the way through and then lose it at the end.”
The loss drops Grace’s record to 7-14 overall and 2-4 in the district, but Mattheiss and the Golden Eagles have been encouraged by how they’ve been performing in close games.
“I definitely feel like we’ve improved so much since the beginning of the year,” he said. “We’ve come so far. We’ve started to gel, and we feel like we can compete with anybody in the region now. Our record isn’t going to reflect it, but the way we’re playing people right now is reflective of the improvements we’ve made.”
Dragoo said that for the Patriots (16-7, 4-2), the key takeaway from Tuesday night’s victory is to give 100-percent effort 100 percent of the time.
“They have to understand that it doesn’t matter what someone’s record is,” he said. “The other team always wants to beat you. Grace outplayed us, effort-wise, for three quarters.”
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at email@example.com)
ARTS & SCIENCES 63, GRACE ACADEMY 59
Grace Academy 20 15 11 13 -- 59
Arts & Sciences 20 13 11 19 -- 63
Grace (59) -- Will Slack 16, Roberts, Lyons 2, Blake Savard 7, Hughes 7, Godsey 2, McQueen 8, Chet Matheny 17.
CSAS (63) -- Josh Carter 15, Moorer 9, Hamilton 5, Brown, Graves 7, Ratliff 3, Houston 4, Nick Moore 18, Lansden 2.
3-point goals: Grace 4 (Matheny 3, Savard); CSAS 6 (Carter 2, Graves 2, Houston, Ratliff).