Friday evening's Northview Sectional nightcap between the host Knights and visiting Martinsville was a prime example of the Hoosier version of March Madness.
The Artesians overcame an 18 point fourth quarter deficit to get within two points with possession in the closing seconds but the hot hand of Artesian senior Andy Stroud was cooled by Northview's 6'8 Nick Wells.
Stroud had nearly single-handedly brought Martinsville back from the brink of a blowout by hitting five second half 3-pointers, three of them during a 20-3 Artesian run in the fourth quarter. His final 3-pointer got Martinsville within 54-53 with 49 seconds remaining. At the Northview end, the Knights turned the ball over but Shawn Hughes blocked Tim Dearlove's layin attempt on the fast break.
Back on offense, Brodee Miller was fouled, but missed a pair of free throws. Stroud would miss a shot jumper in the lane for Martinsville and Heath Chamberlain was fouled on the rebound. He made one of two free throws to give the Knights a 55-53 advantage with just 11 seconds remaining.
Martinsville brought the ball up the court and found Stroud along the far side of the three-point arc. As he went up for a possible game-winning 3-pointer, Wells came flying in for the block of the shot and managed to keep the ball in play long enough for it to go out off a Martinsville player. The Knights got the ball back with just 2.6 seconds left and ran out the clock on a victory.
"Stroud really took the momentum and rode it," commented Northview head coach Mitch Lancaster. "He hit three, very contested shots in the fourth quarter. We're glad to get through it. Survive and advance. It's not how we envisioned the fourth quarter but you've got to tip your cap to (Martinsville)."
The Knights seemingly were ready to put the game on cruise control after hitting 80 percent of their shots from the field (12-of-15) in the first half, including five-of-six 3-pointers to take a 29-16 lead at the midway point. Wells contributed eight points along with Brinn Meunier and Hughes had a pair of long range bombs to his credit.
The third quarter looked to be more of the same as Wells scored on a lob inside to open the second half and Meunier nailed another 3-pointer for a 34-16 advantage.
But the Artesians made their first run as Dearlove scored on back-to-back possessions and added a free throw on a third. Eddie Thiebe added another jumper after a Northview turnover and the lead was down to 11 at 34-23. Wells would put a hitch in the run with a basket but Stroud and Ben Savage sandwiched 3-pointers around a big rebound bucket by Chamberlain to narrow the gap to 38-29.
The Knights stole back the momentum heading into the fourth quarter as Hughes scored and then fed Wells for a huge dunk to fuel the crowd's frenzy.
In the fourth period, the Knights ran off seven of the first eight points to get the lead to 51-33 and grab, what looked like firm control of the game.
But Martinsville amped up the fourth period pressure in a full court press that gave the Knights fits. The press forced nine turnovers in the final quarter and David Thacker keyed off the final Martinsville surge with one of the Artesians' four, fourth period 3-pointers. The result was a frantic comeback during which the Knights rarely were able to get a shot off and the Artesians seemingly couldn't miss.
"We needed to make some plays at the end. We had a tough time making some layups at the end. . .Being in a sectional atmosphere, it's almost like it's supposed to be close," commented Lancaster. "It looked like we were going to ease into a victory, but the 3-point shot allows you to get back into games quickly."
The Knights were able to survive the semifinal stage of the sectional and get their second straight win over the Artesians in sectional play and have faced them in the postseason for five straight years. With the win the Knights will get a title game matchup with Terre Haute South who defeated Plainfield 75-55 on the strength of 27 points from Armon Bassett and 21 from Cole Vicars. Tipoff time is 7:30 p.m.
Dearlove 5-10 3-7 13, Thacker 2-10 0-1 8, Thiebe 2-5 0-0 4, Stroud 5-17 0-0 18, Sichting 2-3 0-1 4, Boren 0-0 0-0 0, Savage 1-9 3-4 6. Totals: 17-54 7-13 53.
Meunier 4-5 0-0 11, Hughes 4-8 2-2 12, Wells 8-10 1-3 17, Miller 1-3 3-7 5, H.Chamberlain 3-4 1-2 7, Thacker 1-2 0-0 3, Medearis 0-0 0-0 0, Reece 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-32 6-12 55.
3-point fieldgoals -- Martinsville 9-26 (Stroud 6-11, Savage 1-4, Thacker 2-5, Dearlove 0-3, Thiebe 0-2), Northview 6-9 (Meunier 3-3, Hughes 2-3, Thacker 1-2, Miller 0-1). Total Rebounds -- Martinsville 17 (Savage 8), Northview 26 (H.Chamberlain 11, Wells 7). Total Fouls -- Martinsville 18, Northview 13. Turnovers -- Martinsville 10, Northview 21.