Pinecrest Academy’s boys basketball team is content to live and die by its ability to make 3-pointers, and through four quarters Friday night against Walker, the Paladins had just barely survived.
Josh Boeye hit a desperation 3-pointer over a defender with 2.4 seconds left in regulation to help force overtime. Once overtime began, Caleb Bohn hit another for the lead. It was the team’s 14th of the game.
But Pinecrest didn’t make another, including Boeye’s full-court heave at the buzzer, and the Paladins dropped a Region 6-1A game 64-62 at home, spoiling an opportunity to notch a signature win for a young group against the region’s No. 2 team.
“Overall, as a group, we stayed together,” Pinecrest head coach Terrance Vinson said. “It’s just us, a young group, having that poise as a collective whole. … We’ve just got to continue to grind and take another step forward.”
It is not right to say the Paladins died by the 3-pointer Friday. They made 14 of them, after all. More likely it was Pinecrest’s wild swings of accuracy from beyond the arc.
Down 31-25 at the half, the Paladins scorched Walker in the third quarter, making seven 3s and pouring in 26 points to the Wolverines’ 12. They closed on an 11-3 run to take a 51-43 lead, and their final three field goals of the run were 3s by Boeye and Hank Lynch.
But the Paladins went dry from there. In situations where Pinecrest had made extra passes that led to open shots, the Paladins seemed more rushed with their selections and flummoxed by Walker’s man-to-man pressure defense in the fourth quarter.
Pinecrest (5-10, 2-6) scored just six points – both on 3s, of course – and after Boeye’s heroic shot to tie the game, the Paladins still needed Walker’s Chandler Baker to miss the front end of a one-and-one with 0.4 seconds left to preserve their chance in overtime.
“In the third quarter we were making that extra pass, that one more pass, to the wide open guy,” Vinson said. “In the fourth quarter everybody wanted to play hero ball.”
After Bohn’s early 3 in overtime, nothing came as easy as it had in that third quarter, especially after forwards Joe Garcia and Lynch fouled out, putting the Paladins at a distinct disadvantage in the paint. Walker’s next six points came from wings Darius Garvin, Baker and Burke Chebuhar, giving the Wolverines (12-3, 6-1) a 63-60 lead. Vinson drew up a play with 15.2 seconds left down 63-62, but there were no heroics this time.
Boeye finished with 18 points including five 3-pointers, while Bohn had 14 points, Lynch added 13 and Ryan DiFazio chipped in 10.
That group, along with Garcia, is comprised of three sophomores and two juniors. They were a year younger when they went 1-20 last season, Vinson’s first in charge. Another year together has helped players identify and embrace roles more, and it’s reflected in the team’s record.
It was reflected in Friday’s game, too, even if in a loss.
“I hope, 100 percent, that they use (the loss) as motivation and confidence,” Vinson said. “We got the No. 2 team in our region on pins and needles.”
Pinecrest girls 61, Walker 25
Paladins head coach Ken Lacy knows his team is prone to slow starts, but he’s noticed the spark his team needs doesn’t usually come from standout guard Regina Metz, Pinecrest’s leading scorer. It comes, instead, from veteran forward Maddie Lynch.
Sure enough, it was Lynch who got the Paladins (8-6, 5-3) out of an early 3-0 deficit with a short jumper, and Pinecrest took off from there for a comfortable Region 6-1A victory.
Metz led the way with 36 points to go along with 12 rebounds and six steals, while Molly Dankowski had eight points, five assists and four steals. Lynch finished with seven points, and Nikia Brown grabbed 10 rebounds.