LINWOOD – Two boys basketball teams out to make a case for themselves as worthy of Cape-Atlantic League postseason play did just that in a triple-overtime thriller Wednesday at Mainland Regional High School.
But only one could actually win the game. Holy Spirit rallied from a nine-point third-quarter deficit, then made big shots late in regulation and three overtimes to beat Mainland 62-56.
Senior Reece Miller hit a trio of clutch 3-point shots, one at the end of the first half, one late in regulation and one that forced a third overtime.
Junior Jake LaMonaca made a game-tying basket that sent the game to its second overtime. Sophomore Isaiah Gerena scored six points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
And seniors Drew Gallagher and Joe Marczyk battled through exhaustion and adversity, grabbing rebounds, setting up teammates and combining for five free throws in the overtime periods.
“Both teams fought tooth and nail to the end,” said Holy Spirit coach Jamie Gillespie. “You’ve got to give Mainland a ton of credit, and I give my team a ton of credit. My kids didn’t stop fighting tonight, which was great to see. One of the things we talked about, especially in the last overtime, was that you’ve got to go take the game, you can’t play passive and hope it happens. And to their credit, in that overtime we came out with the intention of winning it, not having somebody give it to us.”
The Spartans improved to 11-9 overall, 8-2 in the National Conference, and kept alive their hopes for a berth in the eight-team CAL playoff tournament, especially if they can knock off Ocean City Friday at home.
“This was huge, this was a must-win,” said Marczyk. “We’ve got Ocean City on Friday but we were focusing on tonight, and now we’ve got a chance to keep our season going into the CAL playoffs, hopefully.”
Miller led the Spartans with 16 points, and Gallagher scored 11. Mainland (11-9, 5-4) pushed the Spartans to the limit and beyond mainly behind the play of seniors Gabe Fooks-Michnya (21 points) and Duncan Scandin (19).
After Miller’s 3-pointer gave Spirit a two-point lead with 30 seconds left in regulation, Scandin rebounded a miss and put it back at the buzzer to send the game to overtime. Scandin put back his own miss in the first overtime before Jake LaMonaca scored at the other end off a great pass from Gallagher to force a second overtime.
Fooks-Michnya converted a three-point play with 24 seconds left in the second overtime to give the Mustangs a three-point lead, but Miller drained a 3-point shot from the right corner to keep the game alive.
“I haven’t shot the ball particularly well this season,” Miller said, “but it felt good to be able to bounce back and hit shots like that, when we needed them. It was a rough game, but I think our seniors toughed it out. We were definitely tired, but we kept pushing through.”