The "30 Second Stop" drill needed a new name Friday.
That's the term Brookfield Central boys basketball coach Mark Adams called the practice mechanism during which his starters must hold the second string scoreless for 30 seconds.
"Our second group makes us pay," Adams said. "I mean, they make us pay. And we probably lose more with our first group than we come out on top. Tonight, it paid off where they were used to that kind of thing."
Central, playing man-to-man defense all night, stuck with Sussex Hamilton through a 2-minute possession to finish regulation, finishing with a blocked shot by a closing Riley LaChance to force overtime, and undefeated Central held off an upset with a 52-48 victory over spirited Sussex Hamilton in a Greater Metro Conference clash.
In a 2-point game, Hamilton again tried to hold for the final shot in overtime after Will Watkins stole the ball away with 57 seconds to play. But again, the Lancers held on, with Brad Newman procuring the steal that essentially put the game out of reach with 13 seconds to play. LaChance (17 points) added two free throws with 6.8 to go.
"It was just aggressive ball pressure," Newman said. "He coughed it up and it kind of came right to me. We have situations like that in practice where we've got to play defense for long periods of time. Usually, we don't get the stops we want in practice, but it worked out for us (tonight)."
Central moved to 15-0, and the Chargers fell to 8-6. But they didn't go quietly.
Late rally needed
Hamilton top scorer Brady Ellingson took a contested inbound, then elevated for a baseline jumper that swished through, plus a foul. When he sank the free throw, Hamilton had a 48-41 lead with 4:51 to play. Those turned out to be the final points for the Chargers the rest of the way.
Mitch Geszvain caught fire, hitting a trio of 3-pointers in the second half and scoring 11 of his 14 after the break. Ellingson finished with 13, but the Chargers constantly poked holes in the defense for open looks under the basket.
"I thought we executed, took care of the ball and did everything right up until overtime," Cerroni said. "It was there, we had it. We need to not just come to play in this big game, we need to come to win, and I thought the kids did. I'm really proud of how they executed our game plan. They outscored us, but we outplayed them. The thing is, it was a great atmosphere, a great effort, now I challenge them to go out the rest of the way and come out with this kind of play."
Seth Mortag answered Ellingson's 3-point play with one of his own, Elijah Goodman (20 points, 12 rebounds) hit two free throws with 2:47 to play, and LaChance converted a steal into two more free throws to tie the game with 2:18 to play. Hamilton elected to make the next possession the last one. Cue the "2-minute drill."
Without calling a timeout, the two teams battled through the long possession. Ellingson played the role of decoy perfectly, attacking the lane in the final seconds to draw Goodman up, then sending a bounce pass to the block for Brett Buehler. But LaChance came across the lane for the rejection.
"We couldn't foul because that would have been the (seventh) foul, so that wasn't going to be an option," Adams said.
In the overtime, Watkins came away with a huge steal at the top of the key at the 57-second mark, giving the Chargers one more possession and keeping the Lancers from milking the rest of the clock. Cerroni said it was a special moment, after Watkins had reported straight to the game from the hospital where he was visiting his ailing grandmother.
"I've been doing this long enough to know that this is what it's all about," Cerroni said, referring to his junior guard.
But in the final 20 seconds, Newman was able to knock the ball away from Geszvain in the corner, and Central was able to assure its No. 1 ranking in the state would remain intact.
"This is probably one of the most hard-fought games we've had," Newman said. "It's probably bigger than the Germantown game that way. We just fought and got the win."
The Lancers shot just 10 of 29 in the first half in a raucous pro-Hamilton environment, though a LaChance triple shortly before the break pulled Central to within 24-22. Central took a 25-24 lead right out of half on a Newman 3-point play, but the Chargers reclaimed the lead and held it for much of the second half.
"We've shot the ball and scored the ball so well this year, it's come pretty naturally for us," Adams said. "We all knew there was a night where — maybe not everybody, but it turned out to be everybody at one time — wasn't hitting. Even Riley wasn't hitting. Late third quarter or early fourth quarter, I said we're going inside from here on in. Goodman had a heck of a second half. Between him and Mortag, I thought we controlled the inside. A lot of the offensive rebounds they were getting in the first half, they weren't getting those anymore. They were getting one chance, and that's it. The one thing we didn't do real well for a while was play good halfcourt man to man defense, and then in overtime when we needed it, we got some turnovers. I felt we were stronger at the end."
The two teams split last year and shared the Greater Metro Conference title, including Central's 58-56, double-overtime win during the final stretch of the season. Longtime friends Ellingson (University of Iowa recruit) and LaChance (Vanderbilt) are teammates on the Ray Allen Select AAU team.
It was also a huge night for Hamilton, which packed the gym to hopefully witness an upset.
"What a great place for me," Cerroni said. "I feel like I'm blessed to have such great kids, a great coaching staff, great administration, great community. This is something people dream of, and here I am living it, and I'm thankful for that."
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