A scrappy game between the Armada and Almont boys basketball teams came down to the final four seconds in last night’s conference matchup on the Raiders’ home court.
Here’s how it unfolded:
Senior Camden Khon’s 3-pointer gave Armada a 25-22 lead at the half. Fellow senior Justin Schapman extended the lead 28-22 to start the third after making a basket and the and-1. The Tigers seemed to have a handle on things.
The Raiders, however, had a different plan. They managed to answer every rally with runs of their own.
Armada led 30-24 before junior Cole Walton made a basket and senior Clay Roszczewski followed it up with a pair of free throws, narrowing Almont’s deficit to two, 30-28, with 2:14 to go in the third.
Junior Marko Radisavljevic kept the Raiders within two points down the quarter’s final stretch, but Andrew Sniesak executed a 3-point play of his own, taking the Tigers to a 37-32 lead.
That’s when, with 30 seconds left, Almont junior Cameron Bourdeau hit a triple. Walton then stole the ball and passed it up to Roszczewski for a fast-break layup at the buzzer. The two teams were tied at 37 going into the fourth quarter.
Armada regained a lead as large as 46-39 late into the fourth, but even so, Almont was relentless.
Bourdeau made a free throw and a minute later, a calm and disciplined Raider offense would skip the ball around the arc to find Bourdeau again for another clutch 3-pointer. It was now just 46-43 with 1:43 to go.
Radisavljevic would add two more points to the board on a floater through the paint with 1:27 remaining. Almont was now within one, 46-45. Armada head coach Chris Haller called timeout.
The Tigers took to the floor, patiently passing the ball around to let the clock wind down. With 35 seconds remaining, it was Almont head coach Ross Gauthier’s turn to call his team to the bench.
Armada would get the ball back, but Walton anticipated the inbounds pass, made the steal at half court, and took the ball to the hoop for a layup. The Raiders now held a 47-46 lead with 27 seconds remaining.
“Our coach told us to go for the steal…I had one earlier too when once he caught it, I went behind him and tipped it out, so I thought I could do that again and I did,” Walton said. “I didn’t even know what to think really.”
The once-patient Tiger offense had a new sense of urgency as Sniesak sprinted down the court with the ball in hand. After several passes, failed shot attempts, and a pair of timeouts, Armada had the ball out of bounds on the baseline with five seconds remaining.
“When we came to that last second and I called that timeout…to call that [play], I sat down and they all said, ‘We’re doing that right?’ So they already knew what we were going to do,” Haller said.
Haller said the play was originally intended for Sniesak, but after recognizing Almont’s defense, Sniesak recommended his team go an alternate route.
And so Schapman sealed his defender, got the ball, and went up for the game-winning bucket. He succeeded and Armada would win, 48-47.
“That was just a moment of relief because we were battling the entire time,” Schapman said. “There was no real exact leadership I needed to do, it was just teamwork and doing what we do best.”
Haller would say it was the combined leadership of his entire team that propelled the Tigers to the exciting victory on the road.
“That was really them. They said everything I planned to say in that timeout. When you have senior leadership like that, you can’t be more proud. That’s what you’re looking for,” he said.
“The big picture this week was that we’ve got to do it as a team, do it as 12. We need a bench that’s loud and has energy, we need a floor that’s communicating, and credit to them, they really stepped up and did that. My bench was awesome, my floor was awesome, everybody was doing those things.”
Schapman led Armada with 13 points, Sniesak added 10, and senior Riley Andrews had eight. After two of what Haller called "rough losses" over the break, this was a much-needed victory to improve the team to 5-3 overall and 1-1 in league play.
For the Raiders, Radisavljevic led with 23 points and four steals and Roszczewski added 11. Gauthier said he was proud of his team’s effort, and after losing the last two league games by a combined three points, he thinks they’re right on the brink of success.
“We’re getting better every day. We showed resilience. We have two seniors and we’re just going to continue to work and continue to get better. They’re a great group of guys, I love them,” he said. “ This feeling is hard, but I want our guys to remember this feeling because when you feel like this, you get better.
“Eventually we’re going to break through this barrier…We’re right there.”
Almont will travel to play Croswell-Lexington next Tuesday, Jan. 10, while Armada will be on the road against Algonac. See the current BWAC standings and latest scores.
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
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