Old Fort stands alone

OLD FORT – The next time Old Fort coach Eric Hoover has his team do conditioning drills in practice, he might want to join in. If more thrillers like Friday’s game against Carey are in the cards coming down the stretch, and into tournament time, Hoover could use the extra workouts.

The Stockaders’ mentor met reporters Friday a bit out of breath but all smiles.

One last-second shot from Hunter Perry sent Friday’s clash of Midland Athletic League unbeatens into overtime, where a second last-second shot – this time from Jon Lotycz – won it for Old Fort, 75-73.

“The kids, they just battled,” Hoover said as his team improved to 13-4, 7-0 MAL. “We were in some tough spots there and they battled. They just kept believing that we could do it and made all the necessary plays to get it done.”

Perry’s accomplishments have been well documented. The senior came into the week leading the MAL in scoring (29.3 ppg) and third in rebounding (9.0 rpg). But, what sometimes gets overshadowed is the fact that Perry also leads the league in assists (5.7 apg).

While his scoring set his team up for a chance to win, his 35 points led everyone, it was his passing that delivered the victory.

After a Jared Wentling jumper put Carey up 73-70 with 1:20 to go in the extra session, Perry brought the ball up and with the defense converging on him, dished it off to a wide open Lotycz on the block. He got the basket and the foul. The free throw tied the game with 1:07 to play.

“Hunter, every team things he’s our only man but we work as a team and we try to finish it out as a team,” Lotycz said. “Hunter’s a big part of our team to help us finish. He’s very good at looking at open people. For last-minute shots, he puts it right through the smallest holes and gets it done.”

Carey, though, had the chance to perhaps wait for the last shot, but Brad Bannister made sure that didn’t happen. The Old Fort senior swiped the ball away from the Blue Devils, his sixth steal of the night, to set his team up for the chance to win.

Coming off a timeout with 15.4 seconds left, the play almost seemed a mirror image of the one the tied the game.

“I saw (Lotycz) come out and I’m like ‘Oh, yes. Right there,'” Perry said. “Threw it right to Jon, … I’m like, ‘Thank you, God.’ I had a good look at him and he finished it. It was a good play.”

Perry delivered a perfect pass and Lotycz put in the winning points.

“Well, I knew we had to get a couple more points,” Lotycz said. “I was going up for the layup. I held on to it, try and get a foul from him, and it worked out.

“It was just a reaction that I had that just took me there. I don’t even know.”

Carey coach C.J. Kin said the defensive plan was to make someone other than Perry take the final shot, although he wished it would’ve been a bit farther away from the hoop.

“We wanted to get the ball out of Perry’s hands and we weren’t disciplined enough staying inside,” he said. “We wanted to play inside-out, force them to take the outside shot, other than the layup. We didn’t rotate correctly and gave up an easy one.”

Perry made another pass after the game, passing on the credit to Bannister and his defense for setting up the winning play, and making him the offensive threat he is.

“He’s an amazing defender,” Perry said. “That’s why I get better because he defends me in practice. That’s why I go out and score a lot. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be as good as I am.”

“Brad, he’s a pain in the butt on defense, I’ll tell you what,” Hoover added. “He can wreak some havoc out there and you wouldn’t want him guarding you. I mean, he’s just all over you, he’s like a gnat everywhere.”

The game was tied 12 times while the lead changed hands on eight occasions. Carey had a chance to lock up the game in regulation. The Blue Devils were down five with three minutes to play, but got a 3-pointer from Alex Distel, a free throw from Bryan Powers and finally a steal and fast break layup from Wentling to surge ahead.

They got up three in the final minute, but Old Fort clawed back. When Carey split a pair of free throws with eight seconds on the clock, it opened the door for Perry and the Stockaders.

Perry went coast-to-coast, laying in the tying basket to send a game that no neutral fan watching wanted to see end, into overtime.

“Two good teams, like a prize fight,” Kin said. “We throw the punch, they make a response, come back. I knew it wasn’t going to be a blowout either way it was going to be a tough game. It just came down to who made that last shot, and they did it.”

Wentling came into the night second to Perry in the league’s scoring race and tops in rebounding. He finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds. Powers led Carey (14-4, 7-1) with 25. Zach Boes also tossed in 18.

Perry finished three assists shy of a triple-double. He scored 35, pulled in 11 boards and dished out seven assists. But just like the Paul McCartney and John Lennon of the Beatles, he needed a little help from his friends.

He sure got it.

Maison Steyer backed Perry, scoring 17 points, 15 of which came in the third quarter.

After Perry scored 22 of his team’s 28 before the break, the Carey defense began to clamp down, opening up things for Steyer.

“They were focused on me,” Perry said. “They doubled me and I just kicked it out to my guys and they made the baskets. They did what they should do.”

Steyer’s huge quarter helped pulled Old Fort, down seven at the half, to a one-point advantage going to the fourth.

“I could just tell when he came out at the beginning of that third quarter there that he was determined to get it done,” Hoover said of Steyer. “I know he’s very capable. People probably underestimate what he can do. He had a good week of practice, finishing around the basket and really stepped up and made huge plays for us.”

With his huge plays, Lotycz’s huge plays and Bannister’s huge defense backing up Perry’s typical huge night, it’s enough to leave any coach breathless.