TOWNSEND Nineteen lead changes, eight ties and an ending that is tough to explain. Friday night s match-up between the North Middlesex and Oakmont boys basketball teams had just about everything that could be asked for in a game. Thirty-two minutes of play came down to one miraculous shot; a pull-up, banked in three-pointer by Kyle Anderson with :00.4 remaining that gave the Spartans a 67-64 victory.
The amazing ending might not have been if not for an event earlier in the game. Just over four minutes into the contest, the Patriots were given two additional points that they should not have had due to an honest mistake in the book. Those two points had an effect on the game as Oakmont went for the win, believing they were down two in the closing seconds, and Anderson delivered with the clutch shot.
I stressed to the kids throughout the night that one play could be the difference in the game and it ended up being true, said North Middlesex coach Eric Dellasanta. We came out and played a solid team game and had a chance in the end. The difference probably came at the free throw line.
On the night, the charity stripe was unkind to the Patriots. Of their 24 free throw attempts, North Middlesex connected on just nine of them, including a three for 12 showing in the second half.
Trailing 5-2 early on, the Spartans reeled off a quick 8-2 run. John Griffin came up with six points while Anderson added a pair of assists as Oakmont held a 10-7 advantage three and a half minutes into the game.
With nine of the next 12 points, the Patriots regained the lead. Adam Garabedian connected on a pair of long fade-away jumpers while Dave Gagnon added three free throws, including a pair that made it 16-13.
Over the next six and a half minutes, the teams traded shots as the game went back and forth. Four times the teams found themselves even, the last coming at 27-27 when Griffin hit a short jumper off a Blake Sheldon look with four minutes remaining in the opening half.
Anderson took over for the Spartans in the closing minutes, coming up with six points to lead his team on an 11-4 spurt. The junior guard hit a pull-up jumper and a pair of free throws before converting a lay-up off a Griffin feed just before the final buzzer to give Oakmont a 36-31 lead going to the intermission.
Keyed by Garabedian and Mike Schulze, North Middlesex stormed back to regain the advantage. The senior guards combined for 13 of their team s first 16 points as the Patriots held a 47-43 lead five minutes into the second half.
Behind Max Sheldon, the Spartans answered right back with a 10-4 run, The sophomore guard came up with four points, including an off-balanced, turn-around 10-foot jumper that put Oakmont back on top 53-51.
In a game of runs, North Middlesex came up with another of their own, reeling off 12 of the next 17 points to take a five point lead. Gagnon was the catalyst, coming up with five points, including a driving lay-up that made it 63-58 with 2:30 to play.
The Spartans did not back down, storming right back to tie the game. Three points by Anderson, a jumper by Griffin and a single free throw by Max Sheldon were sandwiched around a single free throw by Garabedian as the game was tied at 64-64.
With 11 seconds to play, the Patriots had the ball and Oakmont was forced to foul, still believing they were down by two. Both free throws were missed, giving the Spartans the ball and a chance for the win and Anderson delivered with his dramatic shot.
North Middlesex called a time-out with four-tenths of a second left and tried to set up a final play but a long pass was intercepted by Griffin as the final buzzer sounded. In a game that had just about everything, Oakmont prevailed.
There are a lot of positives that I can take from this game and we will get better from this, said Dellasanta. Adam had a great shooting night, Schulze had a solid all-around night and we did a nice job on the boards. We will be fine.
Garabedian led the way for the Patriots with 21 points and eight rebounds. Schulze finished just shy of a triple-double, with 15 points, nine boards, eight assists and three steals while Gagnon added 11 points and eight rebounds.
Anderson paced the Spartans with 22 points, four rebounds and four assists. Blake Sheldon chipped in 14 points and three assists while Griffin added 13 points and seven boards.