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Blazers battle back to befuddle So. Fulton

December 22, 2006|by CHRIS CARTER/Staff Correspondent

CLEAR SPRING - With Southern Fulton clinging to a one-point lead with two minutes remaining in its boys basketball game against Clear Spring, Indians coach Kent Hendershot decided to play keep-away in hopes of drawing a foul and extending the lead.

While it may sound like a conservative strategy, it turned out to be the coup de grce for an Indians team that blew a 20-point second-half lead and made only one basket over the last nine minutes of the game in falling to the Blazers, 54-50.

"We have no one to blame but ourselves," Hendershot said. "We had a nice lead and we gave it back. We haven't been doing what we need to do to win ballgames."

Southern Fulton - which has lost four games by a combined 10 points - led 50-49 when it began to move the ball around the perimeter, simply trying to keep the ball out of the hands of the Blazers (2-1). The Indians (3-4) maintained possession for more than a minute without being fouled, but the Blazers had a strategy of their own.

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After Jeremy McMullen poked the ball away from Southern Fulton's Brad Divel, reserve Keith Gilchrist picked up the loose ball and sprinted to the other end of the floor for a layup and the lead. Gilchrist was fouled and made it a three-point play with the free throw to give Clear Spring a 52-50 lead.

"They were up one with two minutes left, but that's a long time to hold the ball," said Clear Spring coach Mark Shives. "We were going to let them run it to see how they handled it. It was good patience on our part and we made a play."

The Indians missed a potential game-tying shot on the next possession and Clear Spring's Brett Turner put the game away by hitting two more free throws.

"We said the other night that we're not going to quit in any game," said Shives. "Coming back the way we did was a big test of the heart on this team."

Southern Fulton opened a 42-22 lead after scoring the final eight points of the second quarter and the first 11 after halftime. Divel scored 12 points in the run and finished with a game-high 25.

But Clear Spring had an answer for Divel and the Indians. Turner snapped the run with a layup in transition and went on to score 11 of his 22 points in the third quarter. Turner hit four buckets inside the paint - including two offensive putbacks - as the Blazers ended the third quarter on a 20-5 run to cut the deficit to five at 47-42.

The Blazers were able to claw back into the game with the help of starting forwards Tyler Shifler and Steve Munson, who were limited in the first half with three fouls each. Munson returned in the third quarter and assisted on three baskets, while Shifler hauled in five rebounds in the fourth quarter.

"Two of our seniors got into foul trouble," Shives said. "I think part of it is learning a new system and them having to adjust, but they came back and made plays when we needed them."

Kyle Crist also came up big in the second half and anchored Clear Spring's pressure defense.

Crist made six steals in the second half and, along with Gilchrist, helped hold Divel scoreless in the fourth quarter as the Blazers held Southern Fulton to just three points over the last nine-plus minutes.

Crist and Gilchrist added nine points each.

"It wasn't anything they did, I think it was more of what we didn't do," Hendershot said. "We got away from our game, rushed our shots and didn't show patience.

"We had them against the ropes and didn't put it away."

Zach Mellott had nine points and four assists for the Indians.

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