NEW RIEGEL - Hopewell-Loudon's Ryan Depinet tore down the hallway past his coach, Adam Smith, and yelled.
"The frog is ours. Yeah," Depinet exclaimed.
Yes, the Chieftains did have the frog and in the process, croaked a seven-game losing streak to rival New Riegel on Thursday night, 45-43.
The Chieftains (2-1, 2-0 Midland Athletic League) needed an extra four minutes to do so, but they used the same formula to battle back from a 10-point second half deficit to best the Blue Jackets (1-3, 1-1 MAL).
"It was just a gritty win. Our defense was outstanding. It allowed us to stay in the game despite a miserable offensive first half," Smith said. "When you only score 14 (in a half) and are only down five, you kept yourself in the game."
The Chieftains used pressure defense, solid rebounding and busy hands to hold New Riegel to 3 of 13 shooting after halftime, with 11 turnovers and a 19-17 rebounding advantage for H-L.
"Our bigs did a good job going after boards. Even the ones we didn't get, we had our hands on. I thought we did a good job going to the glass and using our size," Smith said.
It was even more evident on the offensive glass where the Chieftains held an 8-4 margin after halftime.
"That was the story of the game: our lack of defensive rebounding, their offensive rebounding. We didn't get any second chance points. Their pressure kind of took us out of our positions too. The first half we were able to get to our spots, get comfortable, and when the shot went up, we could crash," New Riegel coach David Losey said. "In the second half, we were more concerned about their pressure. We weren't focused on scoring the ball as much as not turning it over."
New Riegel took a lead in the second quarter that it didn't relinquish until overtime when Tyler Imes scored on a hook shot to give the Chieftains a 42-40 lead with 3:02 to go.
The two squads traded misses before Aaron Acree was left alone on the wing and the junior buried his only points of the night, a 3-pointer with 44 seconds left to give the Blue Jackets the 1-point margin. Ryan Lommerse took charge at the other end, drawing the foul and burying his two free throws to give Hopewell-Loudon the 44-43 lead with 21 seconds to go.
That's where the busy hands came in again. Gauge Sadler managed to get his palms in the New Riegel passing lanes and swipe the ball. He was subsequently fouled but made just one of the two free throws with 9.2 seconds left.
The Hopewell-Loudon frenetic defense took over from there, swarming the ball and forcing Blaine Hughes to put up a very contested 3-pointer that missed the mark at the buzzer.
"Last year, we felt like (we lacked intensity) the whole game," Smith said. "We kind of challenged them about that at halftime."
Lommerse had an all-star performance with 20 points, 15 rebounds and four steals. Imes tossed in 16 points and seven boards in the victory.
It was the defense that kept the Chieftains in the game because their offense was not clicking at all. Hopewell-Loudon went 16 of 54 from the field and 9 of 15 from the line.
One of the defensive stalwarts for Hopewell-Loudon was Waleed Salem. He had three steals and disrupted a number of other passes at the front of the defense.
"He's a good defender. He moves his feet well. He doesn't reach a lot. He gets his hands in passing lanes. We knew he was going to be a good ball defender coming in," Losey said. "And we knew if he was going to come out and pressure us, we were going to have some issues possibly. That's an area where we need to grow."
Smith said Salem was critical to the victory.
"He got active and we tried to release him a little bit and get up here and gamble," Smith said. "We asked Tyler to come up and guard Dryfuse up in the high post so we didn't have to cover it and he got out there and I thought really bothered their guards."
Jake Dryfuse had 14 points and nine rebounds while Tim Ink tossed in 10 points.
"I think we improved a lot. From two weeks ago to tonight, we've made tremendous strides," Losey said. "Obviously I'm not happy with the end result, but we're making progress and we're going in the right direction."