WESTFIELD — The Greenfield-Central boys basketball team fought tooth-and-nail to send their matchup against Westfield into overtime Tuesday night, only to be denied the victory 44-42.
The Class 4A Shamrocks had four seconds left on the board to come up with a play. It would have to be clean and it would have to be fast.
Greenfield-Central set up its defense to force Westfield’s offense to play backwards. But Shamrocks’ Zach Banks had different plans. Banks drove past the Cougars defense for a floater at the buzzer, giving Westfield (1-2) its first victory.
“They did not get the ball on the run going to the bucket, he had to curl backwards,” Greenfield-Central head coach Lukas Haworth said. “It came down to the fact that the kid made a great play. That’s a tough shot. We still didn’t give up a wide-open one at the basket. He’s a heck of a player, I give him more credit to making a play than us breaking down.”
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The game was defined by big plays. The first — this time on the Cougars’ side — gave Greenfield-Central a shot at overtime.
The Cougars had seven seconds left on the clock. Westfield led by three, 34-31, after Banks came through with an easy layup. A Greenfield-Central timeout set up the Cougars with an in-bounds play just under their basket. The Cougars shifted their initial play and Logan Graddy found Will O’Connor in the right corner.
O’Conner’s shot lofted with just a few seconds to go and found the net to tie the game 34-34.
“Not everything’s going to be perfect,” Haworth said. “That was a broken play, but we did a good job of guarding the initial action and we did a good job of making the second read. Will moved to get open and Logan did a great job of finding him.”
O’Conner led the scoring with 18 points. He put in some key free throws in the last few tense minutes to keep Greenfield-Central in the game. Brian Long came up with key rebounds down the stretch, ending with 13 points, and Matt Turner also was a key free-throw shooter in overtime, going 4-for-4 from the line.
He ended with nine points. Graddy and Brady Mundell each tacked on a point as well.
The Shamrocks maintained the lead in the first half. While it was a low-scoring half with Westfield leading 24-17 at half, it was the third quarter that showed the Cougars’ fighting side.
Both teams struggled finding the net in the third, but Greenfield-Central’s defense held just a little tighter than Westfield.
“I really think it all started on the defensive end,” Haworth said. “We were able to limit them to one shot and then us actually getting shots instead of turning it over. Once that flipped, I thought the game was really in our control and I was proud of our kids making an adjustment.”
Long’s rebounds helped the Cougars limit Westfield’s shots. They scored just three in the third quarter, while Greenfield-Central scored 10. In the fourth quarter, it was tied after the third at 27-27. Each team dropped in seven to send it to overtime at 34-34.
In overtime, the Cougars went up 38-34 with two free throws from Turner and a layup from Long.
The Cougars missed some free throws before Banks ran in for two more points of his own. Turner responded with two more free throws to make it 40-36.
The last 1:15 of play saw Greenfield-Central drop a four-point lead. The first break for Westfield was a 3-pointer, 40-39. The second break after two O’Conner free throws was a three-point play.
Rock Caleb Welch drew the foul as he watched his shot drop in. The three-point play tied it at 42-42 to setup Banks’ play.
The loss was another fight for the 1-2 Cougars.
“I want us to keep fighting,” Haworth said. “That’s one thing I’ve seen in all the games – it’s had to be a fight. I’ll take a team that fights any day and we’ll fix the rest.”
Greenfield-Central heads into their first Hoosier Heritage Conference game at New Palestine on Friday.
“I’m very proud of my kids for that and I want them to keep their head up,” Haworth said. “It’s a marathon not a sprint. It’s a very long season, and if we keep that fighting spirit and fix the things that are fixable, we’re going to start stacking win on top of win.”