By ANDREW WILLIAMS
OLD FORT — As he had already accounted for 35 points through four quarters and overtime Friday night, it is safe to say Old Fort wanted the ball in Hunter Perry’s hands with 15.4 seconds to play in the extra period and the score tied 73-73 against Midland Athletic League rival Carey.
The Stockaders got the end result they wanted, too. It was how it happened that was slightly less predictable, as Old Fort held on for a 75-73 overtime victory to put it alone atop the MAL standings with a 13-4 overall record and 7-0 mark in league play.
The Blue Devils doubled Perry almost immediately after he crossed half court, and the Stockaders’ leading scorer found Jon Lotycz wide open under the hoop for the basket and a foul to put Old Fort ahead 75-73 with four seconds to play.
Lotycz missed the free throw, but Carey’s Bryan Powers lost the handle on the ball on the ensuing possession and could not get a shot off in time.
“I saw them come out,” Perry said of Carey’s defense on the final possession. “I had a good look at (Lotycz) and he finished it. It was a good play.”
“The kids, they just battled,” Old Fort coach Eric Hoover said. “We were in some tough spots there and they just battled. They kept believing that we could do it and made all the necessary plays to get it done.”
While Perry didn’t hit the game-winning shot, his heroics gave the Stockaders the opportunity to win it in overtime.
Old Fort entered the fourth quarter with a 52-51 lead, but found itself down 63-62 after Jared Wentling’s basket with 1:58 in the quarter.
A pair of free throws by Brad Bannister pulled the Stockaders within 66-65 with 10.4 seconds left in the period and Wentling went to the line after being intentionally fouled with 8 seconds remaining.
He hit the first one to give the Blue Devils a 67-65 advantage. Wentling couldn’t get the second one to go down, though, and Perry grabbed one of his team-high 11 rebounds and weaved through traffic the length of the floor for the game-tying layup as time expired.
“It’s no secret Hunter does a lot for us,” Hoover said. “He makes everything go, but other people stepped up and made plays tonight too. Jon (Lotycz) had a couple nice finishes there at the end, Maison Steyer had a great second half, Brad (Bannister) did a great job on defense. We just made enough plays and everybody stepped up and did their job.”
Old Fort held a 17-14 lead at the end of the first quarter and was up 19-16 minutes into the second before Carey put together a run to take over the game.
The Blue Devils outscored the Stockaders 19-6 to close the half, thanks in part to Powers’ 11 points over that span, and went into halftime up 35-28.
The momentum shifted in the third quarter and the boost came from an unlikely source.
Steyer, who scored just two points in the first half, poured in 15 in the third period as the Stockaders went from being down 40-30 minutes into the quarter to grabbing a 52-51 lead to end it.
“I could just tell when he came out at the beginning of that third quarter there that he was determined to get it done,” Hoover said of Steyer. “I know he’s very capable. People probably underestimate what he can do. He had a good week of practice finishing around the basket and really stepped up and made huge plays for us.”
Powers finished with a team-high 25 points for Carey, while Wentling added 19 points and 16 rebounds, and Zach Boes contributed 18 points.
The loss drops Carey to 14-4 overall and 7-1 in the MAL with two league games left on its schedule, including Fremont St. Joseph which sports a 6-1 mark in MAL play. Old Fort still has to face St. Wendelin, Mohawk and New Riegel in the conference, but can win an outright crown if it wins those three contests.
“It was a tough game all the way around,” Carey coach C.J. Kin said. “I thought Old Fort shot the ball well. Hunter (Perry) really shot the ball well tonight. I think, down the stretch, we made some poor decisions. We weren’t very disciplined and I think that probably cost us the game.
“It was two good teams. Like a prizefight. We throw the punch, they make a response. I knew it wasn’t going to be a blowout either way. It was going to be a tough game. It just came down to who made that last shot and they did it.”
carey (14-4, 7-1 MAL)
Boes 8-1—18, Powers 10-3—25, L. Wentling 1-0—2, J. Wentling 8-3—19, Distel 3-0—7, Rymer 1-0—2. TOTALS: 31-57 7-13—73.
old fort (13-4, 7-0 mal)
Perry 16-1—35, Cleveland 3-0—8, Bannister 2-2—6, Anstead 0-1—1, Steyer 7-2—17, Lotycz 3-2—8, Alexander 0-0—0. TOTALS: 31-59 8-14—75.
Carey 14 21 16 16 6 — 73
Old Fort 17 11 24 15 8 — 75
3-Point GOALS: Carey 4-12 (Powers 2, Boes & Distel 1); Old Fort 5-17 (Perry & Cleveland 2, Steyer 1).
rebounds: Carey 41; Old Fort 37 (Perry 12).
turnovers: Carey 19, Old Fort 11.
junior varsity: Carey, 66-47.