GREENCASTLE - With 5:50 left in the fourth quarter of Saturday night's game, Red Land boys basketball coach Jeff Sparrow took his final timeout.
The Patriots were up 17 points.
"I didn't hesitate to take my last timeout because this team needs to learn how to play without me," Sparrow said.
He may not have hesitated, but Greencastle-Antrim almost made him regret it. The Blue Devils came out of the timeout on a 12-point run to cut the deficit to single digits. They ended the game on a 23-8 run, but it wasn't enough to claim the victory. Red Land won, 66-62, in a non-league nail-biter.
"At the end, we had all that momentum from the crowd and making a couple big shots," Greencastle's Spencer Meyers said. "When they lost their last timeout, that just added to that momentum for us to keep going and keep pushing to see what could happen."
Red Land (6-6) led 54-39 heading into the final quarter and knocked down a pair of buckets to start the fourth. Matt Lutz finally broke Greencastle's silence with a short-ranger jumper, but then the Patriots took that final timeout.
"We have a very elaborate, comprehensive system, and the guys rely on me an awful lot," Sparrow said. "I'm not naive, and I know later in the year, we'll be playing in some louder gyms, and they need to take control of the game. It eventually falls to the point guard to own it at the end."
It was a risky move, and it very nearly backfired when Greencastle (8-3) got hot. Casey Hoover came right out of the timeout with a steal and quick layup; the Blue Devils then got two layups from Hoover and one each by Sam Sprague and Lutz to pull within seven by the 2:50 mark. Despite the huge run, there was nothing Red Land could do to stop the clock.
The Patriots finally broke the silence with a pair of free throws from Dillin Wright before Greencastle made some noise again.
In the waning seconds, Ian Gelsinger nailed a 3-pointer to make it a one possession game, but when Morgon Keiser went 4-for-4 from the line in the final 16 seconds, it was too late for Greencastle.
"We just had to take our time and not rush so much," Keiser said. "(At the line), I just have to take a deep breath and do the same thing over and over again. It's all muscle memory."
Greencastle coach Gary Martin said, "It was cat-and-mouse all night, and our run just ran out. Credit to them because they brought their best player to take the inbound pass; he got the ball and got fouled. I really felt that with as well as they executed, we could've laid down, but we really wanted to win this one, and we battled all night."
Execution was clearly the name of the game for Red Land, which shot an unbelievable 64.9 percent from the field. The Patriots finished 24 for 37.
"Our system is getting us either wide-open 3s or layups, and those are the two best shots in the game," Sparrow said. "We don't settle for mid-range jumpers; we don't force a lot. I'm not shocked if we get to the 50s or 60s (in shooting percentage), but the defensive end is where we have to dig in. When we build 14-15 point leads, we can't let people come back."
Early foul trouble also did not help Greencastle. Hoover, the team's leading scorer, had three fouls on him by the middle of the second quarter and didn't play the last 5:39 of the first half. Brandon Stuhler fouled out with about four minutes remaining.
"I felt that we were right in there, but then Brandon goes down with his fifth; Casey's fighting, living on his fourth forever," Martin said. "To my dismay, I wish I could've instilled in my kids more the threat of (Red Land) making shots because they have a very nice blend."
NOTES >> Despite coming off the bench, Keiser led the Patriots with 28 points, while Wright had 17 ... The Blue Devils were paced by Hoover with 23 points, while Meyers had his best offensive game since returning from injury with 12 points.
Red Land 66, Greencastle 62
Red Land (66)
Dillin Wright 7 2-2 17, Kalen Veres 3 0-4 6, Braxton Meckley 1 0-0 2, Zeb Strock 3 0-0 6, Josh Snyder 1 2-2 4, Morgon Keiser 8 8-9 28, Angel DeJesus 1 0-0 3. Totals — 24 12-17 66.
Brandon Stuhler 2 0-0 6, Sam Sprague 3 1-2 7, Ian Gelsinger 1 0-0 3, Casey Hoover 10 1-1 23, Bryan Gembe 3 0-0 7, Spencer Meyers 5 1-3 12, Ben Freeman 0 0-0 0, Matt Lutz 2 0-0 4. Totals — 26 3-6 62.
Red Land _ 15 _ 19 _ 20 _ 12 _ — _ 66
Greencastle _ 12 _ 11 _ 16 _ 23 _ — _ 62
3-point goals — RL 6 (Keiser 4, DeJesus, Wright), GA 7 (Stuhler 2, Hoover 2, Gelsinger, Gembe, Meyers).