Times Sports Editor
Never underestimate the importance of hitting free throws in clutch situations.
On Thursday night, the Knights hit their first 12 free throws of the fourth quarter and 15-of-20 in the period all together and it was enough to weather a ferocious rally by visiting Plainfield, 63-60.
The Knights needed every one of those shots from the line down the stretch as Quaker guard Chris Page nearly overcame a 15-point Northview lead by himself to open the final stanza.
With junior guard Trent Lancaster still feeling the lingering affects of an illness that kept him out for several games, the Knights were forced to use him as sparingly as possible heading into the stretch run. Northview built a 44-29 lead after three quarters on the strength of a 7-2 run to close the quarter.
However, the Quakers came out with full court pressure to start the fourth quarter and the Knights struggled early on, committing turnovers on their first three possessions. Meanwhile, Garrett Hanna started the rally with a bucket off an offensive rebound and a Knights' turnover led to a pair of free throws by Page. Northview's Chance Talbot broke the press for a lay-in and a 46-33 lead, but then Page caught fire.
His first 3-pointer preceded a Knights' turnover and he followed with another bucket to get the Quakers within 46-38.
Free throws helped build the Knights' lead back to 50-38 as Dillon Reynolds knocked down four straight, but then Page was back at it, nailing his second from long-range. The rally took serious shape as Northview's Jonathan Bradshaw missed a lay-up at the other end and Page followed by drilling his third 3-pointer of the quarter to get within 50-44 with 2:55 left.
"We're up 15 (points) and I know they are going to make a run at us," Maesch said. "I wanted Trent (Lancaster) for the last four or five minutes and I can't play him the whole quarter, he just doesn't have the stamina coming back from being sick. I tried to keep him out as long as I could handle it. We've handled some pressure, but we just made some silly mistakes in a row."
Page made the Knights pay dearly as Lancaster bumped the gap with two free throws, but Page hit another 3-pointer, one of his six in the game and five in the quarter. Lancaster and Page traded free throws as the lead grew back to 60-53 after a charity toss by Bradshaw.
Bradshaw added a fieldgoal for his 13th point as the lead jumped to 62-55, but he missed a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to keep the door open and Page stepped through with two more free throws to get the Quakers within 62-57. Lancaster added one more free throw with just seconds left and Page added a final 3-pointer for good measure with just 0.7 seconds left in the game.
All told, Page had 20 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter, but afterwards, Maesch was excited about how his team bounced back from a lopsided defeat to Danville the night before.
"You get beat by 36 points like we did last night and come back tonight and beat a good team; that says a lot about what's inside a kid," Maesch said. "We had a lot of kids step up and make some plays.
"I'm proud of these kids to win this game tonight against a 4A school, against a sectional opponent," Maesch continued. "This team we beat tonight has been playing well and has been beating some good teams. It's just a testament to how these kids have never given up this year, they keep playing hard under these circumstances and what we've had to overcome. I can't tell you how proud I am of them."
The Knights got a balanced scoring effort as Lancaster had 18 points to lead the way followed by 10 from Reynolds, nine from Caleb Mershon and seven from Damon Hyatt.
In the JV game, Northview let a fourth quarter lead slip away to lose 38-34 despite seven points each from Craig Peters, Braden Parr and Jacob Ninesling.
The Knights (7-14 overall) are off until sectional play begins at Plainfield a week from tonight.
Walker 1-2 0-0 2, Page 11-20 6-8 34, Cox 2-9 1-2 5, Smith 1-3 2-2 4, Hanna 1-3 0-0 2, Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Mershon 1-1 0-0 2, Johnson 2-4 2-2 6, Wheeler 2-4 0-0 5, Spencer 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 21-45 11-14 60.
Hyatt 2-3 3-5 7, Talbot 2-2 0-0 4, Reynolds 2-6 6-7 10, Mershon 3-6 0-0 9, Bradshaw 6-8 1-4 13, Lancaster 4-6 9-11 18, Allen 0-0 0-0 0, Van Horn 1-3 0-1 2. Totals: 20-34 19-28 63.
3-point fieldgoals -- Pl 7-15 (Page 6-9, Wheeler 1-1, Cox 0-4, Spencer 0-1), Nv 4-7 (Lancaster 1-1, Mershon 3-6). Total Rebounds -- Pl 20 (Page 5), Nv 24 (Bradshaw 6). Total Fouls -- Pl 22, Nv 14. Turnovers -- Pl 14, Nv 15.