Times Sports Editor
TERRE HAUTE -- Northview senior Austin Akers has made a habit this year of providing big fourth quarters for his squad, which has typically needed everything the guard could give it down the stretch.
The opening round of the Wabash Valley Pizza Hut Classic contest against the Monrovia Bulldogs was no different.
Akers scored 14 of the Knights' 17 fourth quarter points, including the go-ahead free throw with 33 seconds remaining in the game to push Northview to a 54-51 win.
"(Akers) needs to do that every quarter," said coach Ernie Maesch of his senior's dominant effort. "There are times (teams) are going to double or triple team him and he'll have to have five or six assists or four or five rebounds."
Akers, scored 17 of his game-high 28 points in the second half, hitting four-of-six from the field and six-of-seven free throws in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs had plenty of bite to go with their bark on Friday afternoon, dropping home 10-of-20 3-pointers in the game to nearly knock off the Knights.
Though diminutive in size, 5'8 junior guard Dalin Gray, hit five clutch 3-pointers in the game that had the crowd on its feet.
"It's frustrating to have to have them coming out for open 3-pointers," Maesch said. "To escape (10 made 3-pointers with a win) you're doing something special."
Neither team led by more than five points in a tightly played second half and each team led in the final couple of minutes.
Akers gave a preview of what was to come by dashing to the hoop for a basket and then getting to the line for two previews and a 41-36 lead to open the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs promptly came back on a 7-0 run punctuated by a 3-pointer from Jordan Standeford and a turnaround jumper from Zane Shuee to give Monrovia a two-point lead and drawing a Northview timeout.
Akers knotted the score again with a score and Trent Lancaster, the only other Knight to score in the fourth quarter, tallied a free throw for a 44-43 lead.
Monrovia, who used the 3-pointer very effectively (10-of-20 for the game), did just that in response as Tim Conner knocked one home and Shuee followed an Akers 15-foot jumper to a 48-46 Bulldog advantage.
The lead swung back to the Knights on drives from Akers and Lancaster, but Gray nailed his fifth 3-pointer to give Monrovia a 51-50 lead with just over a minute left in the game.
Looking for an offensive response, Akers missed a 3-pointer of his own, but Monrovia traveled when the Knights' amped up the half court pressure.
Not surprisingly, Akers took the ball to the hoop with 33 seconds remaining and drew a shooting foul.
Akers calmly hit both shots from the line and the Knights had a 52-51 advantage.
Monrovia tried for an answer of its own, but Conner missed a shot in the lane and Jonathan Bradshaw yanked down a big rebound and Akers was fouled with 15 seconds left. The senior hit both shots for a three-point lead and Monrovia's Gray missed a contested 3-pointer with seconds remaining to end the final threat.
"The first game is always the hardest to win," Maesch said of getting off to a good start in the tourney. "Now we'll go prepare for a little bit and come out and play (today)."
Lancaster had another strong game with 12 points for the Knights and Clint Reynolds added five, including a 3-pointer.
A close first half showed the crowd what to expect as Monrovia led 18-16 after one quarter and the teams were tied at 23 at halftime.
Lancaster had seven of his 12 in the first half.
The Knights advance to face Sullivan, a winner over Riverton Parke in the opening round, at 2:30 p.m. at Terre Haute South High School this afternoon. Monrovia takes on the Panthers in the losers' bracket game at 11:30 a.m.
At T.H. South
Akers 8-16 10-13 28, Lancaster 4-10 4-6 12, Reynolds 2-4 0-0 5, Bradshaw 0-4 2-3 2, Musgrave 2-4 0-2 4, Mershon 1-3 1-1 3, Wilson 0-0 0-0 0, Allen 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 17-45 17-25 54.
Gray 6-10 0-0 17, Conner 2-9 0-2 5, Watson 4-7 0-0 10, Jord. Standeford 3-10 0-0 7, Shuee 3-6 0-0 6, Johnson 1-3 0-0 2, Everett 0-1 1-2 1, McIntosh 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 20-51 1-4 51.
3-point fieldgoals -- Nv 3-11 (Akers 2-7, Reynolds 1-1, Mershon 0-1, Lancaster 0-1, Allen 0-1), Mon 10-20 (Gray 5-8, Conner 1-4, Wilson 2-2, McCleery 1-2, Jord. Standeford 1-4). Total Rebounds -- Nv 33 (Musgrave 5, Akers 5), Mon 23 (Jord. Standeford 6). Total Fouls -- Nv 11, Mon 21. Turnovers -- Nv 10, Mon 8.