ADAMS TOWNSHIP — Entering Saturday’s showdown of county rivals of East Clinton and Clinton-Massie, East Clinton had won three of seven games by one possession and three others by single-digits. Clinton-Massie had suffered two of its 11 losses by a possession, including the night before versus another county rival, Wilmington, and another by single digits.
So when the three-quarter-court heave left Kody Zantene’s hand with seconds left, would Clinton-Massie exorcise its demons, or would it be a case of more East Clinton fourth-quarter magic carrying it to victory?
Zantene’s shot hit the top the backboard and bounced away, and East Clinton escaped with a 53-51 victory, avenging a 71-24 loss to the Falcons last year in Lees Creek.
“We for some reason ‘do it,’” EC head coach Phil Shori said. “We come into the fourth. We’re tied, we’re up, we might be down, and then it’s just our fourth-quarter heroics. I give that to my kids. I would prefer we put together a complete game at some point. But if we’re going to be great, I’d rather be great in the fourth than great in the first.
“I told them in one of the last timeouts, ‘We’ve been a fourth-quarter team. We’ve been in these dogfights.’”
The whole game was a dogfight. There were 10 lead changes and four ties. Clinton-Massie’s largest lead was 11-7 with a minute left in the opening period. East Clinton’s was 29-23 with a minute left in the first half. Clinton-Massie (0-11) last held a lead at 44-42 with 4:19 to go in the game. The last tie was 46-46 with 2:35 to go in the contest.
Close wasn’t any consolation to the Falcons.
“A lot of kids with a blank look on their faces. Spirits are down. We’re definitely in a hole right now,” CM head coach Steve Graves said. “We have to keep them positive and see if we can keep improving on the season. We still have that monkey on our back right now, and until we can get it off, it’s going to continue to be a struggle.”
Astro Branson Smith, who led all scorers with 21 points, broke the 46-all deadlock with a bucket and extended EC’s advantage to 50-46 with a pair of free throws with 62 seconds left in the contest.
A Zantene bucket 17 seconds later made it 50-48.
After the Astros (8-6) missed the front end of a one-and-one, Clinton-Massie misfired on its chance to tie or take the lead with 19.6 seconds left.
EC immediately grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Quinten Tolle hit a pair of free throws to make it 52-48.
A Blake Ireland three pulled the Falcons to within a point, 52-51, with :04 showing on the clock.
East Clinton hit just one of its double-bonus free throw opportunities two seconds later to set up Clinton-Massie’s possible heroics.
“We’ve got to continue to get better on the defensive end. We’ve got to finish defensive possessions with rebounds,” Graves said. “On the offensive side of things, we’ve got to take care of the basketball. We have a lot of silly turnovers. We do a lot of standing and watching a lot.”
With the win, East Clinton hit the eight-win mark for the first time since the 2017-18 season. It also is the latest in the season the Astros have been two games over .500 since 2017-18.
Jordan Redman led the Falcons with 18 points.
Jan 23, 2021
@Clinton-Massie High School
East Clinton 53 Clinton-Massie 51
(53) EAST CLINTON (fg-ft-tp) B. Smith 8-3-21, Collom 4-3-12, J. Smith 1-2-4, Runyan 1-0-2, Tolle 3-6-12, Arnold 1-0-2, Bean 0-0-0. Total 18-14-53. 3-point goals: 3 (B. Smith 2, Collom). FTM-FTA 14-19, 74 percent.
(51) CLINTON-MASSIE (fg-ft-tp) Euton 0-0-0, Meyers 3-2-9, Ireland 3-0-8, Muterspaw 1-0-2, Redman 5-8-18, Zantene 2-0-4, Stulz 0-0-0, Russell 2-0-4, Conrad 1-4-6, McDowell 0-0-0. Total 17-14-51. 3-point goals: 3 (Ireland 2, Meyers). FTM-FTA 14-17, 82 percent.
Shawn Robinson covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @twinzdad01.