By PAUL HINES
The Spartans erased a fourth-quarter deficit but couldn’t hold a slim lead in the final minute against Okawville on Tuesday night.
Okawville won the game 46-44.
“The good thing for us is it would have been easy to quit,” Waltonville coach Brian Gamber said. “It would have been easy to hang our heads and feel sorry for ourselves when they made that little run.”
Okawville used a surge to start the final quarter and seized a 43-35 edge with five minutes left in the game. The Spartans were scoreless for the opening three minutes of the quarter but exploded to life after a three-point play from Trey Witges and a bucket for Justin Winchester.
The scores slashed the deficit to 43-40. Witges followed with a twisting shot in the lane to cut the Okawville lead to one with two minutes left in the game. He led the Spartans with 16 points. Winchester gave the Spartans their first lead at 44-43 since the opening minute of the game with another basket with 1:15 left.
Okawville took possession and made several passes before Jacob Brammeier drove to the basket and drew a foul on Waltonville’s Matt Rogers. Brammeier knocked down a pair of foul shots to put the Rockets up 45-44 with 28.4 seconds remaining. Brammeier paced Okawville with 18 points.
“We were playing solid (defense) until about 30 (seconds) and all of a sudden just a careless foul for no reason,” Gamber said.
On the next possession, Jordan Hale tried to feed a ball into the post and Alec Wisneski stepped in for a steal. Wisneski was fouled and hit a one shot to put the Rockets ahead 46-44 with 14.3 seconds left.
The Spartans had a chance to tie when Witges drove to the basket missed a shot, grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He stepped to the foul line with 2.5 seconds on the clock. His first attempt rimmed out. After a timeout, he tried to miss the second intentionally but his shot didn’t hit the rim, giving the ball back to Okawville out of bounds.
“Obviously he’s feeling bad because he missed the first one, but I told him look that’s not the difference,” Gamber said. “He did not lose us the game.
“I’m going to live with him shooting at the free throw line.”
A long pass down the court from the Rockets and several dribbles later the buzzer sounded.
The late run wasn’t the only one of the game for the Rockets. Waltonville absorbed another offensive push from Okawville early in the game. Waltonville held an 8-7 lead in the first quarter after Derrick Whisenant converted a lob pass from Witges. The Rockets responded with a 9-0 to close the quarter.
Okawville had a double-digit edge midway through the second quarter before the Spartans started to claw back into the game in the third. Witges opened the second half with a driving basket. He added a bank shot two minutes later to get the Spartans within a basket.
Waltonville is 13-4 this season.