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Spielman's free throws help Panthers pull out victory

February 27, 2005|BY BILL STERNER

HANCOCK - Brad Spielman just wanted one more chance.

Hancock's senior guard got his shot at redemption and took advantage, making a pair of free throws with less than 1 second on the clock to lift Hancock to a 54-52 victory over Beall in the Region 1A West Region West Sectional quarterfinals on Saturday.

Spielman hadn't had a basket in more than 10 minutes, and when he fouled Beall's Carter Dickel in 3-point territory with just 3 seconds remaining, it looked as if the pieces were falling apart for the favored Panthers.

Things really got rickety when Dickel coolly stepped to the line and canned all three free throws to knot the score at 52-52.

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But Spielman gathered in a desperation inbounds pass at midcourt and collided with a Beall player, sending him sprawling to the floor and drawing a foul to set up the game-winning free throws.

"I just wanted the ball back to make up for fouling that guy with just a few seconds left," Spielman said. "I learned you don't often get two chances at this level. When I stepped up there, I knew I was going to make those two free throws."

With desperation now on Beall's side, the Mountaineers' Casey Greig lofted a court-long pass that tipped off of several players before rolling harmlessly out of bounds as the final buzzer sounded.

"That last call was definitely a tough call, either way," Beall coach Bob Nelson said. "Dickel gave us overtime, I thought, but then this. This game can be very unfair."

Hancock (19-3), the No. 2 seed in the sectional, had trouble throughout the game as the Panthers struggled to shake off the aftereffects of Wednesday's loss to Williamsport and the two-day snow-related vacation.

"We played in spurts," Hancock coach Jeff Spielman said. "Especially in the first half, we struggled to get separation with Beall and we just didn't have the focus we usually do."

In fact, the Panthers reached double digits in turnovers while barely shooting a double-digit percentage from the floor, a troubling trend that started in the Williamsport game. Yet, as poorly as the Panthers played, they found themselves down by just one - 24-23 - at the half.

Beall used an aggressive defense under the boards, using Greig and Bobby Fuller to challenge Hancock's big man, Jeff Willison.

But Willison had frontcourt mate Dylan Shives back and healthy, and while Beall did control the boards in the first half, Willison and company came on when it counted. The tandem accounted for 20 rebounds.

"Jeff got pushed around a little there in the first half," Jeff Spielman said. "But he has a history of stepping up for us. Thank goodness when it counted, he was able to make those plays."

And the plays to which Spielman referred to were huge for Hancock.

The Panthers were able to build a 51-45 lead with just 1:24 left before Beall stormed back, getting three straight turnovers and three point-blank attempts in the paint.

Each one was swatted away by Willison.

"I knew every one of those last shots would hurt us," Willison said. "I'm just happy I got to them."

"We survived," Spielman said. "We started out too passive. I think they know we won't get many second chances like this one."

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