York, PA - For the Dover boys' basketball team, four wayward minutes Tuesday threatened to nullify three quarters of sound play.
The Eagles guards that had marshaled the game along started to turn the ball over.
The shots that had fallen all night stopped going in.
Before long, a revitalized Northeastern side had whittled a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit down to two.
Luckily, the Eagles still had time on their side during the closing stretch of their eventual 60-54 victory.
"I think we were just trying to relax," Dover senior Jerell Figueroa said. "Slow the ball down a little bit and run some clock."
Ultimately, Dover did enough of that -- and made enough free throws -- to escape Northeastern's gym with a critical, YAIAA Division II win. The Eagles' efficiency throughout the first three quarters was enough to offset a panicky final period in which they committed nine turnovers and failed to score a field goal.
"I thought we played an excellent first half, an excellent third quarter," Dover coach Brian Schmoyer said. "There was about a four-minute stretch in the fourth quarter when we didn't execute and didn't take care of the basketball."
That lapse almost proved costly.
No matter. Dover (8-4, 4-2) still moved into sole possession of first place in Division II, one game ahead of the Bobcats (5-4, 3-3) and New Oxford.
Figueroa led the Eagles with 22 points, one of three Eagles guards in double figures. Connor Snyder added 13, while Brandon Smith pitched in 11.
For much of the night, those three controlled the game. They drained a combined seven 3-pointers, four by Figueroa.
On defense, the Eagles' 2-3 zone forced Northeastern to take a large chunk of its shots from the outside -- a less-than-optimal strategy for a team that excels at slashing to hoop.
"We told our kids, 'We're going to make them beat us from the outside,'" Schmoyer said.
But once the fourth quarter began, that once-steady play wilted. The Eagles missed all five of their field-goal attempts in the frame. They didn't score in the quarter until the 2:32 mark.
Northeastern's desperate press had something to do with that. And the Bobcats made enough buckets to inch their way back. Chris Nwandu had 10 of his team-high 18 points in the quarter, while Eric Steadman chipped in six points and five rebounds in the period.
The Bobcats cut the deficit to two, 50-48, on Nwandu's 3-pointer with 2:10 to go.
"I think we just got ahead of ourselves," Figueroa said. "We couldn't keep up with the flow of the game, because we were too excited."
Figueroa blunted the rally with a pair of free throws. Then, out of a timeout, Northeastern drew up an alley-oop for Khalid Nwandu (15 points). The play appeared wide open, until Dover forward Josh McMahon flew in from out of nowhere to deflect the pass away.
That seemed to be the turning point. Northeastern scrapped until the final horn but could not cut into the gap anymore. The Eagles made enough of their free throws (11-of-16 in the quarter) to seal a division victory.
Outside of those four minutes, there was little for Dover to complain about.
"Down the stretch, the last two minutes, we did a really good job," Schmoyer said. "Hopefully it's a learning experience for the kids, we really need to value to ball and take care of possession."
Huffnagle 0 0-0 0, Walter 0 0-0 0, Brandon Smith 4 2-2 11, McMahon 4 0-3 8, Workman 0 0-0 0, Connor Snyder 5 1-2 13, Jerell Figueroa 6 6-7 22, Snyder 1 4-6 6. Totals 20 13-20 60.
Gause 1 0-0 2, Khalid Nwandu 5 3-4 15, Riley 0 0-0 0, Chris Nwandu 8 0-1 18, Steadman 4 0-0 8, Elijah Cooper 4 2-2 11, Eyster 0 0-0 0, Hoffman 0 0-2 0. Totals 22 5-9 54.
Dover 13 19 17 11 -- 60
Northeastern 7 12 15 20 -- 54
3-point goals -- Dover 7 (Figueroa 4, Snyder 2, Smith), Northeastern 5 (K. Nwandu 2, C. Nwandu 2, Cooper)
JV score -- Dover 43, Northeastern 35