MICHIGANTOWN — It took gobs of guts and stubborn refusal to surrender, but most of all it took an iron-like will to resist and prevail.
And when the last shot was fired in Tri-Central’s boys basketball team’s 60-57 double-overtime win over an equally stubborn Clinton Prairie for the championship of the 54th annual Clinton Central Holiday Tournament here Saturday night, both the Trojans and Gophers had to be wondering, “Are we finished yet?”
The Trojans (3-3) had all kinds of opportunities to win their 10th CC Tourney title, third in the last five years and fifth in the last 10. But a nightmarish free throw performance (11 of 22) including three missed bonus chances and a blown two-shot opportunity kept the game hanging in the balance.
“It was very frustrating, and we were fortunate to pull it out with our 11-of-22 free throw shooting,” TC coach Kyle Zahn said. “But we were able to execute offensively and run our sets in both overtimes which helped us get the lead. We also did a good job taking away their steps on ball screens and staggers.”
Cody Howell’s clutch 3-pointer wiped out a 47-44 Gopher lead for the game’s fifth tie (47-47) with 1:11 left in regulation, and TC nearly pulled it off when Garrett Dick’s jumper from the key struck iron. But a Seth Blunck miss of the bonus earlier in the final act also saved the Gophers.
Dillon Smith gave TC a 49-47 lead to open the first OT, but Colten Leininger missed the bonus with :35.5 left and Kale Morris’ jumper with :15 left forced the second extra period (49-49).
Blunck and Dalton Davis canned shots to give the Trojans a quick 53-49 lead in the second overtime, and it was a 55-51 TC lead when Leininger again went to the line for the bonus with :54.7 to play. But a miss and Austin Martin’s two freebies kept CP alive, 55-53.