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INDIANAPOLIS — The crowd was chanting airball, but Rich East guard Nick Horne wasn’t listening.
Horne overcame some bad misses from the free-throw line on Saturday to help lead Rich East past Heritage Christian in overtime, 52-48, in the IPSAC vs. Midwest Basketball Showcase at John Marshall High School.
Playing much of the latter part of the game without standout Ronald Lawton, who was ill, Horne and point guard Washawn Washington stepped up in his place.
Horne split a pair of free throws, making the second, with one second remaining in regulation to force overtime. Then he scored five of East’s 10 points in overtime.
In overtime he twice airballed a free-throw attempt, only to make the second.
The second such instance sealed the game, putting East ahead 52-48 with 15 seconds left.
“It says a lot about his character to hit those so we could come back and find a way to win,” East coach George Leonard said.
While Horne feels he’s a “pretty good” free-throw shooter, he’s not sure what happened on the two air balls. He wasn’t going to worry about them for long, either.
“(Leonard) always tells me next play,” said Horne, who finished with a team-high 11 points and 12 rebounds. “Everybody was saying airball, I was saying ‘next play.’ ’’
Don Henderson and Watson each added 10 points for East, which improved to 4-2.
“(Watson) kind of put our team on his back and he’s the one that got me all of the passes to help us get back in the game,” Horne said.
Leonard said Watson ran the offense “efficiently” from late in the fourth quarter and through overtime.
East led the entire first half but scored just six points in the third quarter and Heritage Christian took a 31-30 lead.
The Eagles (3-4) led 42-39 with 30 seconds remaining, but East cut the deficit to a point on Henderson’s drive to the basket. Horne then made 1 of 2 free throws to force overtime.
Moving forward, Leonard hopes East can build on the efforts of those who stepped up in Lawton’s absence.
“We haven’t really gelled as a team,” Leonard said. “Hopefully some of the guys that did some of the things today gain some confidence and we can put more pieces together.”
Heritage Christian’s Anthony Warrum led all scorers with 26 points, but no other Eagle scored in double-figures.