CLAYTON — Fairmont didn’t take a single free throw Tuesday at Northmont and the Thunderbolts escaped with a narrow 62-61 victory.
The Thunderbolts committed fouls, just not when the Firebirds were shooting and never enough in either half to put Fairmont in the bonus. It was a plan by design not to give Fairmont chances at the charity stripe.
“Our defensive philosophy tonight was to make them shoot over us,” said Northmont Coach Collin Abels. “They do two things: they look to shoot the ball from the perimeter and they look to drive it all the way to the basket, and what they are really hoping to do is they want to kick it outside and get a clean look from 3-point range. Obviously, we didn’t want to give up straight line drives like that. The thing I kept preaching to our kids was to make them score over us because they are such a good free throw shooting team that if you foul them, they are going to make their free throws. All their starters shoot 75 percent and above.”
Even with a solid strategy in place Fairmont guard Jack Hendricks managed to take the ball inside for scores, especially in the fourth quarter when he scored 10 of his game-high 17 points.
With Northmont leading 53-44 after three quarters, Jansen Davidson scored inside for Fairmont. After the Thunderbolts went to the free throw line three times and converted three of six shots, Hendricks buried a 3-pointer and followed up with another trey after Northmont committed a turnover to cut the Thunderbolts’ lead to 56-52.
After Northmont missed a shot on the ensuing possession Davidson nailed a 3-pointer to make it a one point game, 56-55 with 4:03 remaining. With Northmont reeling Christian Wilson came up with a key basket inside and the Thunderbolts called timeout with 3:34 left. When play resumed Fairmont kept the heat on as Kellan Bochenek scored to cut the Bolts’ lead back to one.
Wilson came up with another clutch basket for Northmont. Fairmont missed its next shot and Dylan Crutchfield committed a common foul. Leading by three the Thunderbolts had a prime opportunity to increase its lead but DaLonte Capers committed an offensive foul on the inbounds pass to turn the ball back over to Fairmont.
Hendricks took the ball inside to cut the T-Bolts’ lead back to one point. After Northmont failed to score, Hendricks sliced inside again to give Fairmont the lead 61-60 with 1:39 remaining. With the Northmont faithful on the edge of their seats Vinson Walker posted up inside to score a short jump shot to put the Bolts back on top with 50 seconds left. But the game was far from over.
After Fairmont missed a shot Northmont controlled the rebound but in an effort to avoid Fairmont pressure the Thunderbolts stepped on the end line to turn the ball back over to the Firebirds with 19 seconds left.
Hendricks took the inbounds pass and dribbled around looking for an opening. As he dribbled away from the key and towards the sideline Hendricks stumbled and lost control of the ball. Hendricks dove for the ball along with two Northmont defenders and a jump ball was called with the possession going to the Thunderbolts.
When the ball was put in play Hendricks immediately fouled Northmont’s most reliable free throw shooter, Rodney Richardson, and the game appeared to be a lock. But, as fate would have it, Richardson missed the front end of the one-and-one and the Firebirds hauled in the rebound and called time out with two point eight seconds left.
Fairmont put the ball in play and got the ball to Hendricks. He crossed midcourt and fired a desperation shot just before the buzzer sounded. His shot was high and careened off the upper left side of the backboard well off the mark as Northmont escaped with a 62-61 win.
“I know we gave up a few too many layups and a few too many easy shots around the rim,” Abels said. “Hendricks can get it going and as you saw in the fourth quarter we lost him a couple of times and he made us pay. The thing that I am proud of is that we went in that game from a situation where we looked like we had it in control to them taking a one point lead in the fourth quarter and we really never wavered and never panicked. We went down and got a good shot where we wanted it, in the post, and made the shot and then we got a couple of stops that we needed to get in critical situations to win the ball game.”
With the victory Northmont remains undefeated to improve to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in division play while Fairmont falls to 2-3 and 1-3.
Northmont travels to Springfield on Friday on the eve of Christmas Eve to face the Wildcats, currently 3-1 overall.
FMT 18 31 44 61 – 61
NMT 26 42 53 62 – 62
Fairmont: Kellan Bochenek 14, Cade Morgan 11, Jansen Davidson 11, Jack Hendricks 17, Kamron Drollet 2, Dylan Fairmont 7 (Hendricks 3, Bochenek 2, Morgan, Davidson); Northmont 3 (Perkins, Richardson, WilsoCrutchfield 4, Brandon Hall 2. Totals: 27-0-61.
Northmont: Jabari Perkins 10, Rodney Richardson 6, Christian Wilson 11, Maurice Beavers 5, Vinson Walker 8, Arius Spears 11, Donavin Wallace 2, DaLonte Capers 9. Totals: 23-13-62.
Three point baskets: Fairmont 7 (Hendricks 3, Bochenek 2, Morgan, Davidson); Northmont 3 (Perkins, Richardson, Wilson).
Records: Northmont 5-0 (3-0), Fairmont 2-3 (1-3).
JV Score: Northmont 57 Fairmont 45.
Reach Ron Nunnari at 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@civitasmedia.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind