CLAYTON — At the beginning of the season Northmont repeatedly got off to slow starts in the first quarter of its basketball games. In the second half of the season the third quarter has proved to be the Thunderbolts Achilles’ heel.
That proved to be true again Saturday night in Northmont’s final regular season game at home against Beavercreek. Leading 18-10 after one quarter and 35-29 at halftime, the Thunderbolts only generated 10 third quarter points to trail 48-45 entering the final period.
Beavercreek held the lead the entire fourth quarter and at one point was up 54-48 with 1:37 remaining after Jon Alessandro converted a pair of free throws.
With time waning Dawson Walker scored a jump shot and blocked a shot on the change of possession and followed that with a steal. Prophet Johnson scored a put-back to cut Beavercreek’s lead to 54-52 with 46 seconds left. Alessandro drew a foul from Jabari Perkins and converted one of the free throws to give the Beavers a three point lead, but it wouldn’t last.
Perkins buried a 3-pointer to tie the game and Northmont quickly called time out with just over nine seconds remaining. When play resumed the Northmont defense swarmed Beavercreek and Cameron Rucker came up with a steal with the Bolts immediately calling timeout with 2 and 8 tenths of a second remaining.
Danny Lewis lobbed a high inbounds pass to 6-foot, 6-inch Dawson Walker who was set up outside the lane near the baseline. Walker leaped high, grabbed the inbounds pass, turned and launched a 12-foot fade away jump shot that got nothing but net as the buzzer sounded to lift Northmont to an exciting 57-55 victory.
“If we could just get rid of third quarter we would be a heck of a basketball team,” said Northmont Coach Collin Abels. “For a second I didn’t think we were going to score in the third quarter. I told the guys, this season has had a lot of ups and downs and tonight was a microcosm of that. The one thing I know those guys are always going to do is that they are going to keep fighting; they are going to keep playing and tonight was a perfect example of just sticking with it. We were able to make enough plays down the stretch and I was very happy that we got the opportunity to honor last year’s league championship team, which was a great group of seniors.”
A ceremony was held prior to the game to honor members of last year’s team, which compiled a 20-5 overall record before getting eliminated in the district semifinal game.
“I’m happy that this group of seniors got to walk off this floor for the last time as victors,” Abels added. “The nice thing was that every play down the stretch was made by a senior. Donavin Wallace had a big assist, Jabari Perkins got a big 3-pointer to tie it and Cameron Rucker came up with a big steal and then Danny Lewis made a great pass and Dawson Walker made a great catch and great shot to win it. It’s one thing to draw up a play, but you have to have guys that can execute it and it’s great that we had seniors make those kinds of plays late in the game to win it.”
The Thunderbolts open the Division I sectional tournament against Fairborn on Friday at 6 p.m. at Butler High School in Vandalia.
BEA 10 29 48 55 – 55
NMT 18 35 45 57 – 57
Beavercreek: Adam Grater 3-3-9, Bryan Walther 1-0-3, Chris Herbort 2-1-6, Jon Alessandro 4-5-14, Joe Alessandro 1-2-3, Evan Saylor 1-0-3, Caden Grimm 2-0-5, Jayme Johnson 5-2-12. Totals: 19-12-55.
Northmont: Dawson Walker 2-1-5, Jabari Perkins 5-0-13, Donavin Wallace 5-2-12, Cameron Rucker 2-0-4, Ifeyani Nwanoro 1-0-2, Danny Lewis 4-2-12, Prophet Johnson 3-2-9. Totals: 22-7-57.
3-point goals: Beavercreek 5 (Walther, Herbort, Jon Alessandro, Saylor, Grimm); Northmont 6 (Perkins 3, Lewis 2, Johnson).
Records: Beavercreek 9-13 (3-9), Northmont 10-12 (2-9).
JV Score: Northmont 47 Beavercreek 36.