CENTERBURG — Centerburg boys basketball coach Sky Brusco pointed out that the basket looks smaller in clutch situations.
That didn’t seem to bother Landon Griffith, who managed to find it with 6 seconds left to lift the Trojans to a 46-44 win over Pleasant in non-league play Tuesday night.
“I was kind of nervous,” Griffith said. “I was trying to stay calm and trust my teammates and trust my coaches to call the right play and I executed it correctly.”
“We set some screens and Landon found himself by himself under the bucket and he converted,” Brusco said. “That’s pressure right there. The basket looks real small in that situation. I thought Landon made a great play there.”
Centerburg had difficulty getting the ball inbounds down the stretch until Mick Mead found Griffith in front of the basket on a baseline inbound play. Griffith, who scored all four of his points in the fourth quarter, went up to get the ball, back down and up again to give the Trojans the lead.
“I thought (Pleasant) made it tough on us getting the ball in,” Brusco said. “But to come back after those mistakes and then do what we did at the end (is a) tribute to our guys. But give Pleasant credit — I thought they made it really tough for us with their athleticism.”
Cohl Ambrose’s shot from the left wing was off the mark at the buzzer for the visiting Spartans.
“We talked about whether to go solid or take some chances and we decided to take some chances because we knew they had no timeouts left,” Pleasant coach Ben Snively said. “We basically left it in the kids’ hands and said, ‘Hey, go make a play.’ They got it inside and I thought our kids made a great play. But they scored. I told them whether (Centerburg) scores or not that we were going to get it and go and (Ambrose) got a great look at it at the end of the game, but it didn’t fall.”
Ambrose had tied the game on a put-back with 28 seconds left to set up the final sequence. It was his second in the final two and a half minutes for the Spartans, who trailed by as much as six in the final frame.
Carter Jones had 16 points and six rebounds and Hayden Hankinson added 12 points and seven rebounds to lead the Trojans (10-2).
Hankinson was particularly big for Centerburg early. He scored seven points in the first quarter, including the first six points after the Trojans had fallen behind 6-0 to open the game.
“Hoss (Hankinson) is playing really, really well right now,” Brusco said. “For the last two or three weeks, he’s really been in a zone. He’s a senior. I think seniors kind of sense it when it’s the end of their career and I think he’s locked in and playing really well.”
Centerburg closed the quarter on a 17-2 run to take a 17-8 lead after 3-pointers by Dalton Hall and Mead.
Alex Joachim turned a steal into an old-fashioned 3-point play and Luke Thomas buried a 3-pointer, pulling the Spartans within 17-14 early in the second quarter.
Hankinson followed with a 3-point play of his own and Jones buried a 3-pointer to push the lead to 28-21.
But Thomas answered the triple with one of his own with time winding down to pull Pleasant with 28-24 at the break.
The teams stayed within a possession of each other until late in the third quarter when Jack Gregory and Mead scored baskets on consecutive possessions to give the Trojans a 38-34 lead at the end of the frame. Mead had eight points, five steals and three assists for Centerburg.
Joachim had 13 points and six steals, Thomas added 10 points and three steals and Ambrose chipped in nine points and eight rebounds for Pleasant.
Blubaugh finished with six points, four assists and four rebounds and Noah McGinniss led with eight rebounds and two assists to go with four points for the Spartans (6-8), who had a three-game winning streak snapped.
“We just ran out of time,” Snively said. “They got one more basket than we did. That’s the game sometimes.”
Next up, Centerburg returns to KMAC play Friday night when it battles Northmor in a battle for first place. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
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