Watchmen pull out yet another frantic finish
If you've seen one C.S. Lewis Academy boys basketball game this season, you've pretty much seen them all.
The Watchmen have run out to big leads in every contest so far, but with just six players on the roster, have seen the leads evaporate rapidly late in the fourth quarter as they tire out and opponents pressure them into turnovers.
That was the case again Friday night, even as coach Brett Vernon's team had its best offensive performance of the season in racing to a 52-36 lead over Eddyville Charter through three quarters.
The Watchmen had their now customary rash of turnovers against the press, as the Eagles cut the lead to 59-56 with a 16-2 run over the final four and a half minutes of the game.
C.S. Lewis couldn't seem to catch a break during that stretch, but managed to steal an inbounds pass with four seconds remaining to win their fifth consecutive game.
"We've already had three three-point wins where it's been exactly the same situation, so we're getting so much experience," Vernon said. "We had leads of 19, 19 and 12 in those three-point games that we've played and each time they've had a shot to tie it. Luckily, they didn't get a shot off this time."
The Watchmen lost their season opener 54-44 on the road against the same Eddyville team. The biggest problem in that game was foul trouble, as two players fouled out, forcing CSLA to finish the game with just four players.
Vernon's team has done better at limiting its fouls since then and had won four straight games heading into Friday night's rematch.
That included a 37-27 win over Southwest Christian Dec. 5 and a 51-34 victory over Portland Waldorf on Dec. 7. Both of those wins came on the road and C.S. Lewis also struggled with turnovers late, but neither the Eagles nor the Wolfpack could capitalize on them enough to threaten a late comeback.
It was clear from the opening whistle Friday that the Watchmen had gained some confidence since the season-opening loss, as they sprinted to a 22-10 lead after one quarter.
Sophomore Jacob More powered the fast start, hitting three of his five three-pointers in the opening eight minutes. C.S. Lewis led by as many as 17 in the second quarter before it began to tire and Eddyville found its footing; the Eagles closed on 12-2 run to make it 32-25 at the break.
The combination of Micah Grobey, who scored a game-high 25 points, and More powered the Watchmen to another big run early in the third quarter, putting the home side up by as many as 19. More finished with a career-high 17 points.
"Micah's close to unstoppable when he's going to his right and is under control, so when we put Jacob in the right corner, it's pick your poison," Vernon said. "We've been waiting for Jacob to knock down some shots and he really lit it up. He hit two or three versus Waldorf and then hit five tonight. He makes us special and has a chance every night to go for 20 because he shoots the ball so well."
The Watchmen appeared to be on their way to closing out a blowout win when momentum swung quickly in Eddyville's favor.
C.S. Lewis was poised to bring the lead back to 19 points, but got a little too cute and missed an open layup. The Eagles promptly hit a three-pointer and turned a turnover into a basket to trim the lead to 12 points with just under four minutes to play.
Emboldened by the momentum swing, Eddyville continued to cause turnovers with its full-court press, trapping Grobey deep in the back-court to fuel its run.
The Watchmen managed to escape with the victory, but are surely going to have to find some late-game solutions moving forward. The good news is that despite having core of three experienced juniors, the team is relatively young and can expect to improve.
"Every night I have this gut feeling that we should win by 20, but at the same time we are 5-1," Vernon said. "We're getting it done."