BY MIKE RILEY
Both the scoreboard and game film will show that on Tuesday night, Charlestown’s Aaron Daniel converted 2-of-2 free throws with 7.8 seconds left to put the Pirates on top 52-50 at Rock Creek Academy.
The Pirates then tightened up at the defensive end as the Lions’ Tanner Gerth missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, allowing the Pirates to claim the road victory.
For Charlestown, the win was its third straight to put their record at 6-3. For Rock Creek, it was its seventh loss in its last eight games as the Lions fell to 5-9.
But this had the making of one of those games. A game that the Pirates could look back on late in the season and say, “Yeah, that was the game that turned things around for us.”
“When you can find a way to overcome some of the things that we did tonight and win the game, that’s very satisfying,” said Charlestown coach Sean Smith. “Sometimes on the road, things don’t go as you would like them to.
“And tonight we were led by our seniors. Aaron, Chris [Braun] and [Justin] Conrad all did a great job.”
The Pirates watched a disappointing end to the first half as they were tied at 20 with just seconds left. They turned the ball over on the inbounds play as the Lions’ Will Brown stole the ball, drove to the basket, scored and was fouled. Brown hit the free throw to give the Lions a 23-20 halftime lead.
Third-quarter action saw Rock Creek lead 28-23, then later score six straight points behind the play of Brown, Ronald Karenzi and Gedeon Nzombi to build the lead to 34-27. Behind the play of Braun, Conrad and Daniel, the Pirates finished the quarter on a 13-6 run to take a 46-40 lead.
But wait a minute.
During the quarter break it was determined that an error had been made at the scorer’s table, cutting the Pirate lead to 44-40. After Nzombi missed two free throws to open the final quarter, he then made two to cut the lead to two.
Three-pointers by Conrad and Daniel built the advantage to 50-44. The Lions tied the game at 50 on a basket by Devin Burt. But missed free throws were the Lions’ thorn as they made only 2-of-9 in the fourth quarter and 7-of-16 for the game. The much taller Rock Creek squad also was outrebounded 30-28.
Daniel led the Pirates with 18 points. Braun added 16 points and 11 rebounds and Conrad had 12 points. Nzombi led Rock Creek with 13 points. Brown and Burt each finished with 11 points. Karenzi had 10 rebounds.
“My attitude at the end of the game bothered me as opposed to the loss,” said Rock Creek coach Chris Brown. “But I’m not a moral victory guy. We responded tonight, but maybe this is one we shouldn’t have lost. But it’s not a video game. You can’t turn it on and off. The guys have to learn that.
“We didn’t take care of the little things — free throws and rebounding. But I applaud our effort. I don’t think we played like sophomores tonight.”
“We’ve had three straight wins like this where we’ve had to fight and scratch to the end,” Smith said. “All three have been on the road and we’ve stepped up to the challenge.”
“Charlestown came in with a good game plan tonight designed to stop Will (Brown),” Coach Brown said. “But we had other guys step up. Tanner Gerth and Gedeon Nzombi did a great job tonight.”
Both teams will take to the road on Saturday as Charlestown travels to Madison while Rock Creek visits Medora.
“We’re not going to dwell on this one. We’ll just get at it at practice tomorrow,” Coach Brown said. “Besides, my mama used to say, ‘Don’t invite me to your pity party, because I’m not going to come.’”