GREENTOWN — Eastern’s boys basketball team looked in good shape against Alexandria when Ethan Wilcox sparked an offensive breakout with a blocked shot and Brayden Richmond cashed in with a 3-pointer to push the Comets’ lead to 53-47 with 4:11 remaining. It was the Comets’ third 3-pointer of the fourth quarter.
The momentum, however, came to a grinding halt.
Alexandria closed the game on a 17-0 run to beat Eastern 64-53 Tuesday night.
“It was a hard-fought game. You want to be in position to win the game with 4:00 to go and we were, but we ran out of gas and they kicked it up a notch,” Eastern coach Mike Springer said.
The Tigers’ Brennan Morehead answered Richmond’s 3-pointer with one of his own and the Tigers’ Rylan Metz hit two free throws after an offensive rebound to cut the Comets’ lead to 53-52 at 3:23. Following an Eastern turnover, the Tigers hit the offensive glass for a three-shot possession that Kole Stewart capped with a go-ahead 3-pointer at 2:35.
From there, the Comets’ next three possessions ended in two more turnovers and a missed free throw on the front end of a one-and-bonus — and the Tigers (11-9) took advantage to pull away. Eastern (9-11) finished with six turnovers in the quarter.
“Alexandria switched from a 2-1-2 press to a 2-2-1 and we didn’t attack it,” Springer said. “We made some turnovers that we hadn’t made all night and hadn’t been making lately.”
The first half saw the teams battle through five lead changes and three ties. After Austin Roberts gave Eastern a 24-20 lead when he swished a 3-pointer with 2:39 remaining in the half, Alexandria scored the final seven points to take a 27-24 lead into halftime.
Tied 24-all, Eastern had a turnover while playing for the final shot and Stewart made the Comets pay when he hit a half-court shot at the buzzer.
Alexandria opened the second half with a 7-2 run to go up 34-27, but Eastern battled back for a 38-all tie on Evan Monize’s post basket at 1:11 of the third quarter. The Comets closed the quarter with a 40-39 lead after Monize fed Roberts for an inside basket at :08.
Levi Mavrick hit two 3-pointers to help Eastern go up 50-44 at 5:04 of the final quarter and Richmond’s triple made it 53-47 at 4:11, but the Tigers surged from there for their fifth straight win in the teams’ series.
“They have a senior-laden team — they won the sectional [at Eastern] last year — so they have some confidence,” Springer said. “We want to be that team and we’ll get there eventually. I was really proud of our kids’ effort. They listened really well. They were trying to do the things we want them to do. We attacked them. I felt like we were doing well offensively.
“Defensively, their big kid [6-foot-7 Nick Williams] is a ton inside and we had to help and then recover, and I felt like we did a good job.”
Williams scored a game-high 21 points. He did the bulk of his scoring inside, but he also stepped out to hit two 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to keep the Comets from pulling away.
Also for Alex, Cade Vernetti backed Williams with 18 points and Stewart had nine points off the bench.
Mavrick and Richmond had 12 points apiece to lead Eastern. They combined for seven 3-pointers. Roberts had 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting and he also had five rebounds.
The Comets played without guard Matt Arcari (wrist injury) and Drew Monize (illness).
Eastern hosts Madison-Grant on Saturday.
“That’s our senior night,” Springer said. “We have Ethan Wilcox and Matt Arcari who play a lot and we also have Nate Wilson and Jacob Powell. It’s time to celebrate them.”