Special to LTN
VALE — On the game’s first possession Tuesday night, West Lincoln guard Houston Gilmore buried a three-pointer from the top of the key.
It took the Rebels more than nine minutes to make another basket. In fact, they made just 10 more shots from the field the rest of the game.
And they still had a chance to beat Chase.
But Trojans guard Shad Blanton sank two three-pointers in the game’s final 1:25 to lift Chase to a 47-43 victory.
“We were cold, we turned it over a little bit,” West Lincoln coach Karl Sain said of the loss. “We were 2-0 (coming in) and we know there’s some excitement and we came out and just got off to a really slow start.”
After Gilmore’s three-pointer gave West Lincoln (2-1) a 3-0 advantage, the Rebels missed their next 13 shots in a row. At the same time, Blanton went to work. He scored 13 of his game-high 27 points in the opening quarter as the Trojans (3-0) built a 17-5 advantage.
Finally, with 6:06 left in the half, Daniel Schesny snapped the drought when he scored off an offensive rebound. But the Rebels then went two more minutes without a point to fall behind, 24-8.
But Alec Bruning provided an offensive spark off the bench, scoring eight of his team-high 12 points in the final 3:17 of the half — the last on a great feed from Luke Webb before the halftime buzzer to make it 26-19.
“We made a couple of adjustments and did a great job from then on,” Sain said. “We went on a good run. We withstood that initial blast. I felt like we did a good job of battling back.”
That’s when things really got interesting.
West Lincoln opened the second half with an 8-0 run and took a 27-26 lead on Bruning’s baseline drive with 4:56 left in the quarter.
The two teams stayed close until the game’s final minutes. Webb scored on a nifty reverse layup to cut Chase’s fourth quarter lead to 40-39 with 1:39 to play. Blanton answered with a three-pointer from the top of the key, making it 43-39.
Webb cut the lead to 43-41 after sinking 2 of 3 free throws after being fouled on a three-point shot attempt.
Then, when conventional wisdom called for Chase to slow down, eat some clock and force the Rebels to foul and put them on the free throw line, Blanton came right back down the floor and hoisted up a long three-pointer — and made it — to put the Trojans ahead 46-41.
“I was excited when he shot,” Sain said. “The kid made a lot of plays tonight. I was anticipating him trying to score. I wasn’t anticipating him pulling up from 22 feet. He made plays and tonight they made a few more plays down the stretch.”
Blanton made 6 of 11 three-point shots and scored all but 20 of Chase’s points.
Despite the loss, Sain said his team will build from its first setback of the season.
“That was a great learning experience,” he said. “We’ve got five guys that played a lot of minutes last season and we’ve got the younger guys. That was a great learning experience for the younger guys. Chase was really physical. They tried to do what they wanted to do on the court, but we did a good job of recognizing, making adjustments and limiting those opportunities.”