POTTSTOWN — The Hill School seemed to have a new hero every minute.
But so did Blair Academy in their hotly-contested Mid-Atlantic Prep League boys basketball contest in front of a large and noisy Saturday night crowd at Gillison Court.
Fittingly, the game went into overtime before The Hill defense forced a miss on an off-balance shot at the buzzer that ended the extra session for a 58-56 win.
John Carroll recovered from a rough start to lead the Blues (3-1, 12-2) with 18 points, Bryce Allen knocked down the winning 3-point shot among his 10 points, James Fives added 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Matt Foltz controlled the boards in the second half and overtime on the way to nine points and 10 rebounds. Marial Shayok poured in 25 points for the Buccaneers (3-1, 11-3), including a 3-point bomb that sent the contest into overtime, and Mike Silverthorn scored 14.
"We've got a lot of guys and we can put a lot of lineups out there,' said Hill coach Seth Eilberg. "I don't think we played our best game. But we talk about toughness and next-play mentality. They (the Bucs) kept making shots. But we got a huge ' 3' from Sam Norton, and another one from Joe Pucci, who came in for him. Bryce comes in and makes a huge shot at the end. Seth Stankiewicz was in the starting lineup and got us started ... Matt Foltz' offensive rebounds on missed free throws. John Carroll was pressing in the first half, but he was very special in the second half.'
"That's the great thing about this team,' said Fives, who grabbed 10 rebounds in the first half. "Anyone at any different time can step up. I just try to do whatever I can to help the team, whether it's rebounding, scoring, or passing.'
The Blues struggled from the floor early and trailed by an 11-7 score after a quarter before taking a 16-14 edge at the half. Then both teams heated up in the third quarter, especially Carroll. He scored off a pass from Fives, connected on a 3-point shot from the left wing, scored on a drive, and hit another 3-pointer from the right corner for a 31-25 lead for the Blues. All of that came after missing his first six field goal attempts on the night.
But the hosts could not put Blair away as Silverthorn drilled a couple of big 3-pointers and Shayok hit a 3-pointer to cut a 47-41 deficit in half and then another from the right corner to tie the score with one second remaining in regulation play.
The Blues shook that off and came out and scored the first five points in overtime.
"We have next-play mentality,' said Fives, who put the hosts on top with two free throws. "You can't dwell on the previous play.'
Norton followed that with his 3-point blast and a trey by Pucci made it 55-50 after a Blair 3-pointer by Brett Jolly (8 points). Then the Bucs countered with six straight points, all of them on baskets by Shayok.
But Foltz came up with two offensive rebounds after missed free throws, Allen hit a 3-pointer from the left corner with seven seconds left, and Shayok missed an off-balance try from just inside the 3-point arc at the buzzer.
"We knew we had to win this game to have a chance at one of the top seeds (in the MAPL playoffs),' said Eilberg.
But the Blues didn't need any such incentive with a large student section cheering them on.
"Any time you play a great team like Blair that has set the standard in this league ... our kids were obviously excited,' Eilberg added. "We weren't able to play all week, but we tried to keep them sharp, but rested. We played very good defense.'
"The fans were great,' said Fives. "They really got us going at the beginning of the game, and the overtime, too ... just a great atmosphere.'
The Blues had an 8-0 rebounding edge in overtime and 36-27 advantage on the night and held the Bucs to just four offensive rebounds. ... Silverthorn hit four shots from 3-point range and also led the visitors with six boards. ... Foltz had seven defensive rebounds in the second half and three on the offensive end in the overtime. ... The Blues turned the ball over only three times in the first half and 15 in the game while Blair had just 12 miscues, including only four after halftime. ... The teams combined for 17 baskets from 3-point range, nine of them by Blair.