Gates-Chili uses late rally to knock off Hilton

The Gates-Chili bench celebrates during the closing moments of Wednesday’s game.

By JOHN LIKANJE

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The Gates-Chili boys’ basketball team knew the importance of Wednesday night’s matchup against the Hilton Cadets. The Spartans used that understanding to fuel a late comeback.

Trailing by as many as five points in the fourth quarter, Gates-Chili closed the game on an 11-0 run in the final four minutes to defeat Hilton, 77-68.

“We knew it was going to be a big game for us so that we could become No. 1,” senior guard Keith Slack said as the Spartans leapfrogged the Cadets for the top spot in the Class AA standings. “We had a great, hard practice last night and we just picked it up from there.”

Adam Williams converted a traditional 3-point play to give the Spartans a lead they did not surrender with 2:25 remaining in the game.

“We were struggling a little bit, but it was alright because in the fourth quarter, we did what we had to do,” Williams said when commenting on the win. “We played great team defense and we won the game.”

Williams scored again on a fastbreak layup for a 71-68 edge after a forced turnover. It was the Spartans’ largest lead since the first quarter when they were up by seven.

“It started at halftime in the locker room,” Williams said when explaining what sparked the Spartans to victory. “When the whole team calms down, we work together and that’s how we won.”

 

 

Both teams exchanged missed field goals. However, after the Cadets (8-2) secured a rebound, the Spartans (10-2) immediately transitioned into a full-court press. The defensive pressure paid off as the Spartans forced a turnover in the backcourt and junior guard Devin Walton swished a wide-open jumpshot from the top of the key to extend the lead to 73-68 with 1:19 left.

“Our defense played a big part,” Slack explained. “We went full-court press and they just couldn’t handle the pressure. We got like four steals and layups back-to-back-to-back.”

Coming out of a timeout, the Cadets could not convert on three opportunities right at the basket to cut the deficit to a one-possession game. Slack grabbed the rebound and was almost simultaneously fouled. The senior guard walked down to the other end of the court and calmly swished both free throws for a 75-68 edge with 44.9 seconds remaining.

“I hit free throws at the end of the game and that was just the turning point right there,” Slack said.

For head coach Terry Nowden’s squad, it was their fourth consecutive victory and seventh in the last eight games.

“It was all about focus to the details,” Nowden commented on his squad’s comeback win. “We knew we had a pretty good gameplan for how to play defense on them.”

In a fourth quarter which featured five lead changes and five ties, Gates-Chili outscored Hilton 21-9. The Spartans forced nine missed field goals, seven turnovers, and allowed three made field goals in 21 possessions.

“I didn’t even have a blueprint for the game,” Nowden said. “I was just ‘straight up and grind the game out.’ And that’s exactly what we did.”

The Spartans forced their sixth turnover of the quarter and Slack was fouled yet again. The senior guard knocked down another pair of shots from the charity stripe with 32.1 seconds left. The Spartans got another turnover and senior guard Traylan McCray dribbled out the clock while raising his hand in the air for the Gates-Chili crowd to commence the celebration. The final buzzer sounded and the players, overjoyed, jumped up and down in the air and embraced their student section and fans after the hard-fought victory.

“It was a next-play mentality down the stretch,” Nowden explained on his squad’s approach to the fourth quarter. “That led to a couple of turnovers, great hustle plays, the guys never gave up, and I didn’t know what the run was, but I knew it was something special when we took the lead.”

Trailing by nine points twice in the opening minutes of the third quarter, Slack sparked a 16-6 run with a shot from beyond the arc and a mid-range jumpshot for a 56-55 edge. Sophomore forward Andrew Newcombe made two layups, Walton netted one of his own, and McCray swished a three-pointer. Williams finished a highlight-reel alley-oop dunk as well during the run. It was the Spartans’ first lead since the midway point of the second quarter. During the run, Nowden’s squad held the Cadets to seven turnovers and a missed field goal in 11 possessions.

“When it was our time to go on a run, we just finished our run and stopped their run,” Slack said when explaining how the Spartans kept the game close.

The Spartans got off to a quick start as well with a 13-3 run to take a 15-9 lead five minutes into the game. Williams scored eight of the 13 points with a pair of long-range bombs and a layup right in front of the basket. McCray knocked down a three-pointer and Walton made a layup of his own. During the run, the Spartans forced the Cadets into five missed field goals, three turnovers, and one made field goal in nine possessions.

Slack and Williams each finished with a team-high 21 points.

“Those two go hand-in-hand and are like Batman and Robin,” Nowden said about his leading scorers in Wednesday night’s game. “Slack always said ‘If you guys cut, I’m going to find you.’ That’s what Adam’s trying to do a bit more and then everybody else started cutting as well.”

Slack scored all of his points after the first quarter and 17 in the second and third combined. The senior guard knocked down a trio of shots from beyond the arc, made two layups, a mid-range jumper, and went 6-of-7 from the free throw line.

“If I’m not scoring, my team was scoring for me,” Slack said as he dished out seven assists. “The second quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter came and I started scoring more. Then it just all settled down and we just went up as I started scoring more.”

Williams netted 12 of his 21 points in the first quarter as the Spartans held a 22-17 lead. The sophomore forward converted five layups-one resulting in a three-point play, two long-range shots, a dunk, went 3-of-3 from the foul line, and grabbed six rebounds.

“Me and Keith Slack are the first and second option,” Williams explained. “My team did a good job of sharing the ball together and we got the paint wide open. Every time we got the paint wide open, it was clear as day and we scored off it. Every time we scored off their turnovers, we played good defense.”

McCray scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half. The senior guard made three consecutive layups in the fourth quarter-one which ended in a three-point play, two shots from beyond the arc, a free throw, and had seven steals.

Newcombe contributed eight points on four layups and hauled in eight rebounds. Walton scored six and handed out six assists.

“We got big-time plays out of Andrew Newcombe, Devin Walton, and Traylan McCray,” Nowden explained. “Those three guys actually turned around the entire fourth quarter for us. Those guys are falling in love with their role. They know they’re hustle guys, they know they have to do the little things to help us win, and those are the guys that I need to put in the spotlight because those are the ones that get us over the edge.”

Turner Harris (5), Tre Green (2), and Mitchell Harris (1) rounded out the scoring for the Spartans.

Tah’jae Hill poured in a game-high 36 points for the Cadets. The junior guard netted 24 of his 36 in the first half as the Cadets held a 43-38 lead going into the locker room. Hill poured in 16 shots from inside the arc as well. The junior guard finished with 12 layups-one resulting in a three-point play, two mid-range jumpshots, a floater, a dunk off a full-court pass from senior forward Mitchell Carr, and hit four of his six attempts from the charity stripe.

 

 

Hill scored four points on a floater and two free throws as the Cadets rebounded from the Spartans’ 16-6 run with a 6-0 spurt of their own for a 61-56 lead with 7:02 remaining in the game. Junior forward Najier Daniels made a layup to start the run. During this stretch, the Cadets held the Spartans to five missed field goals and a turnover in six possessions.

 

 

Hill and Carr combined to score eight points during a 10-0 Cadets’ run for a 41-32 edge with two and a half minutes left in the first half. Hill finished two layups while Carr had one of his own to go along with a pair of free throws. Senior guard Jack Gombatto netted a layup as well to start the spurt. During the run, the Cadets forced the Spartans into four missed field goals and two turnovers in six possessions.

Hill netted nine points on three layups, including a three-point play, and a mid-range jumper during an 11-2 run as the Cadets retook the lead, 26-24, in the beginning of the second quarter after trailing by seven. Daniels had a layup as well.

Daniels scored nine of his 14 points in the third quarter. The junior forward finished with six layups, including a three-point play, and two made free throws.

Carr (8), Colin Burkis (5), and Gombatto (5) rounded out the scoring for the Cadets.

Gates-Chili will travel to Churchville-Chili Friday night to take on the Saints. Game set to tip off at 7:15 PM.

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