After scoring just three free throws in the third quarter, the Ben Davis Giants could have written off its Saturday afternoon game against Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival North Central. Instead, the host Giants rallied back and made a closing defensive stop for a 55-50 win.
Down 42-37 going into the final quarter, Ben Davis opened with a 12-1 run and shook free from the stranglehold of the Panthers’ 2-3 zone defense that had contained the Giants after halftime.
But the win was not secured until Panther guard Wes Stowers missed a three-point attempt to tie in the final seconds, and Brennan Gillis added a pair of free throws to the final margin.
Ben Davis coach Mark James found satisfaction in having his team come from behind.
“We showed really good composure,” James said. “We were down five late, and the kids did a good job of taking good shots at that time and not turning it over for some possessions. It was a good effort game for us against a really good team.”
The Giants were the better team in the first half, making a 17-0 run as they pushed the tempo and found gaps in the full court pressure that North Central tried to apply.
Gillis scored the first eight points of the surge, six of those coming from baskets and bonus free throws, while DeShon Tate added a trey and Michael Beaty put on the exclamation mark on the run by taking a defensive rebound coast-to-coast for a layup that gave Ben Davis a 32-18 lead.
However, North Central chipped its way back into contention with some defensive hustle. That hustle continued into the second half as the Panthers confounded the Giants into going the whole third quarter without a field goal.
“Our guards stopped looking to push the ball up the floor,” James said. “In the second half, North Central changed their defenses a lot by switching to a zone (in the halfcourt) and went to more man-to-man to slow us down coming up the floor.”
North Central guards Wes Stowers and Eron Gordon also produced 13 points as the Panthers took over the lead by the end of the third quarter.
But, Ben Davis found its own resolve, and made its best defensive stand when needed most. The Panthers had hoped to locate Gordon for a three point attempt that would tie in the final 12 seconds of the contest.
However, Stephon Matthews denied Gordon the ball, leaving Stowers having to make a contested last try at the basket.
“Matthews did a great job of guarding Gordon, who had hurt us all game,” James said. “But, we also did a good job of guarding the (3-point) line and made them take a longer shot.”
Gillis, who scored half his points in the fourth quarter, led Ben Davis (5-4, 2-3 MIC) with 20 points and seven rebounds. Beaty supported those numbers by adding 14 points and six boards. Gordon led all scorers with 21 points, all on 3-pointers, while Stowers checked in with 14 for North Central (3-5, 1-3 MIC).