FAYETTEVILLE — The East Clinton Astros traveled to Fayetteville Saturday night looking to earn their first victory of the season. After four quarters and an overtime the Astros were able to scrap and claw their way to a 62-58 victory over the previously unbeaten Rockets.
Coach Tony Berlin was thrilled with his team’s effort.
“We are getting better every game,” he said. “My kids and staff deserve this because of the hard work they put in.”
Branson Smith led all scorers with 24 points. Colten Vadnais added 16 and Quinton Tolle finished with 11 for the Astros.
Jayden Bradshaw led Fayetteville-Perry with 14 points.
After the teams were tied at 51-51 to end regulation, the overtime period belonged to Smith and the Astros. He was able to net eight of his game high 24 points in the extra period.
The Rockets tried to respond, but Matt Hall made his second huge play of the game, as he stepped in and took a charge. The Astros used that possession to their advantage as Smith found Vadnais along the baseline for a score. Smith was able to hit three free throws on the next two Astro possessions to push the lead to six with 50 seconds remaining.
Fayetteville, however, would not go quietly. A long three from Bradshaw made it a one possession game with 20 seconds left. But finally a clutch free throw from sophomore Landon Runyon sealed the deal for the Astros as his shot gave his team a 62-58 victory.
For Fayetteville, it was their first loss dropping them to 2-1 on the season. The Astros moved to 1-2.
The Astros have little time to relish their victory as county rival Wilmington visits Lees Creek Tuesday night.
We can celebrate (Saturday) and (Sunday) and then prepare for Wilmington because they won’t be easy,” Berlin said.
The Astros were able to get off to a quick start with three pointers by Branson Smith and Vadnais. Later in the quarter a beautiful feed from Smith to Tolle, and a subsequent jumper from Tolle gave the Astros an early 14-8 lead.
The Astros also were in sync on the defensive end and held Fayetteville to just one field goal over the final three minutes of the first quarter to maintain a 14-10 advantage at the break.
Teams played evenly through most of the second period, although missed free throws (EC was 18 for 31 on the night) allowed the Rockets to stay close. Rockets forward Jaxson Malone nailed a three pointer at the buzzer to trim the East Clinton lead to one at halftime.
Things unraveled a bit for the Astros during the third quarter, as the Rockets capitalized on several East Clinton turnovers to run off nine consecutive points. This prompted Berlin to call timeout and his team responded with a 4-0 run to end the quarter, which included a big bucket from senior Matt Hall as EC trailed by one 40-39.
The Astros chances of claiming their first victory looked bleak, as they were held scoreless for the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, and trailed 45-39.
Tolle then broke through the defense for an Astro score. Tolle was instrumental in the Astros success all night.
“Quinton controlled both ends of the floor with a strong all-around effort. He guards the other teams best player every night,” said Berlin.
Tolle’s basket was followed by a strong drive and three-point play by Smith and the Astros were suddenly very much in it, with just a one point deficit. A Vadnais jumper put EC back on top but the free throw line again kept EC from extending its lead.
Another huge three pointer from Malone put the Rockets back up as the clock hit the 1:30 mark. Facing a two point deficit the Astros turned to leading scorer Branson Smith, and he responded. He was fouled on his way to the basket, stepped up to the free throw line and calmly drained both shots to tie things at 51. A last second shot from the Rockets was off target and the game headed to overtime.
In the junior varsity game, East Clinton posted a 50-37 win to improve to 2-1 on the season. Justin Arnold led East Clinton with 15 points.
Dec 7, 2019
@East Clinton High School
East Clinton 62 Fayetteville-Perry 58
(58) FAYETTEVILLE-PERRY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Coffman 4-0-3-11 Holden 1-1-0-3 Cornett 2-2-0-6 Attinger 2-0-0-4 Murphy 2-0-1-5 Hendrix 2-0-0-4 Bradshaw 4-2-5-14 Boler 0-0-0-0 Malone 4-2-1-11. TOTALS 21-7-9/17-58
(62) EAST CLINTON (fg-3fg-ft-tp) B Smith 7-1-9-24 Collom 0-0-0-0 Runyon 0-0-2-4 Tolle 4-0-3-11 Peterman 1-0-1-3 Neanover 1-0-0-2 Hall 2-0-0-4 Vadnais 6-1-3-16. TOTALS 21-2-18/31-62
Brian Georges cover high school basketball for the News Journal.