GREENCASTLE - Although Greencastle-Antrim senior Holden Baker hit only two buckets on Tuesday night, they may have been the most important field goals in an 60-56 overtime victory over Mid Penn Colonial Division rival James Buchanan.
After starting the game and not producing any offense, Baker didn't play much in the third quarter, but when he reentered the game in the fourth, he wasn't about to let the opportunity pass. Trailing 48-47, the Blue Devils turned to their go-to 3-point shooter, and he was ready to answer.
From inside, Joel Zola kicked the ball out to Baker, who was about a foot beyond the arc. But no matter. The 5-foot-7 senior nailed it.
When James Buchanan's Aubrey Brown answered with two successful free throws to send the game to overtime, the Blue Devils found themselves down by one with 1:06 remaining in the extra period. But Baker turned out to be the hero for a second time. Austin Scott's layup attempt rimmed out, and Baker scooped it in for the game-winning shot.
"It was the last time I'll probably ever play on this court, so I just wanted to come out here and do it big and end with a bang," Baker said. "I feel a little pressure, but I know I need to hit the shots, so I just try not to think about it too much."
Because it was the Blue Devils' senior night, Baker was put in the starting lineup, and coach Gary Martin said he couldn't have been happier about that decision.
"We played a guy that's 5-7 versus a guy that's 6-3 and leading the conference in scoring (Zola), and look how Holden repaid us," Martin said.
Holden wasn't the only senior to shine on his big night.
Danny Stepler had the game of his life with a career-high 23 points - four of which came in overtime. He added four rebounds and two steals.
"I just got the ball a lot," Stepler said. "My teammates were doing really well passing it to me, and I got the open shots. I just tried to get whatever they let me have."
Not only were his offensive stats impressive, he also made a solid impact on the other end. Stepler was marking JB's leading-scorer Grant Strawoet, who was held to just three field goals.
"He spent a lot of energy working against Grant Strawoet on the defensive end without any help, and he stepped up to the challenge," Martin said. "Then all the points he scored on offense right in the post against these bigger, taller guys - he'll remember this for the rest of his life."
Greencastle (15-3, 9-2 MPC) looked as if it was going struggle after the first quarter. The Rockets (5-14, 1-9 MPC) came out looking to avenge an earlier loss to the Blue Devils. After eight minutes, they were certainly on the right track, leading 14-6.
JB coach Larry Strawoet said, "We just rebounded the basketball well, gave them one shot and done and the kids were playing hard and as a team."
In the second, the Blue Devils started strong, helped along by an impressive steal and fast-break dunk by Zola that sent the crowd into a frenzy. But James Buchanan answered with an 8-2 run to lead by as many as 11.
"Their zone was making us struggle a little bit," Stepler said. "But then once we figured it out and got into the middle and into the heart of their defense, we were able to come back."
Greencastle slowly but surely chipped away before finally taking a lead midway through the third. The game was simply back-and-forth after that. In the final 15 minutes, there were 12 lead changes and five ties before the Blue Devils ultimately clinched it.
JB's best chance for a victory was when it was ahead 48-42 with 3:27 remaining. But then Greencastle's defense stepped up in a big way, forcing three consecutive turnovers.
"I think we lost it before overtime," Larry Strawoet said. "With three minutes left, we were up by six and just didn't take care of the basketball. If we had've made some plays at that point, I think it would've been a different outcome."
JB had a nice scoring spread with four players in double digits. Jake Muller led the Rockets with a double-double, scoring 12 points and bringing down 14 boards. Garrett Malanka followed with 11 points, and Liam Corcoran and Grant Strawoet both added 10.
Lizi Arbogast can be reached at 262-4788 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
James Buchanan 56, OT
Liam Corcoran 4 2-2 10, Grant Strawoet 3 4-4 10, Jake Muller 5 2-3 12, Aubrey Brown 1 2-2 5, Austin Metzler 1 0-2 2, Sloane Bendell 1 0-0 2, Garrett Malanka 2 7-9 11, Ryan Hege 2 0-0 4. Totals 19 17-22 56.
Holden Baker 2 1-2 6, Danny Stepler 10 3-5 23, Brandon Puffenbarger 3 1-2 7, Austin Scott 2 2-4 6, Zach Faulkner 2 2-3 6, Joel Zola 3 3-8 9, Eli Englehart 1 0-0 3. Totals 23 12-24 60.
James Buchanan 14 12 12 12 6 - 56
Greencastle 6 16 15 13 10 - 60
3-point shots - JB 1 (Brown); GA 2 (Baker, Englehart). Shooting - JB 19-47 (40.4%); GA 23-54 (42.6%). Rebounds - JB 33 (Muller 14); GA 23 (Scott 8). Steals - JB 3 (Corcoran 2); GA 7 (Baker, Scott, Faulkner 2). Turnovers - JB 13; GA 9. Blocked shots - GA 6 (Puffenbarger 3). Fouled out - Muller.
JV: Greencastle-Antrim 51, James Buchanan 34. Sam Sprague led the Blue Devils with 11 points, while Toby Sowers topped the Rockets with 11 points.
Next game: JB: Thursday, at Big Spring, 7:30 ... GA: Friday, at Big Spring, 7:30.