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When you’re involved in a donnybrook, it is best to keep fighting.
Locked in an Upstate Eight Valley battle Friday night, host Bartlett and Metea Valley took turns taking shots at each other.
The Mustangs landed the final blow and captured second place in the conference with a 41-38 decision. Hitting four free throws in the final 1:19 of the contest, the Mustangs outlasted the Hawks.
Derek Coleman hauled in the biggest rebound of the game for Metea and was quickly fouled with 4.7 ticks left leading 40-38. While Coleman missed his first free throw, he buried the second and forced a three-point attempt by the Hawks. Lance Whitaker’s 26-footer was off the mark at the horn.
“I tried to stay calm and cool at the line,” said Coleman, who was interrupted with a timeout between attempts. “The first one wasn’t what I would have liked, but I just remained calm and cool and fortunately it went in.”
Trailing 24-19 midway through the third quarter, the Mustangs (17-9, 9-3) went on the offensive. Erupting for 15 straight points, the Mustangs seized a 34-24 advantage. Sean Davis ignited the run with a three-pointer and a putback, and Metea Valley added four free throws before Connor Archey found Coleman on a backdoor cut to close the frame.
Trayvond Taylor deposited a feed from Davis to open the fourth quarter, and Bryson Oliver went coast to coast before the Hawks (19-8, 8-4) ended a 5:55 scoring drought with a rebound and a basket by Billy Kramer. Whitaker, who was held scoreless in the first half and had two points entering the final frame, scored consecutive buckets to cut the deficit to 34-30 at the 5:20 mark.
Davis (team-high 10 points) hit a free throw, and Hayden Barnard (seven points, seven rebounds, three blocks) followed with a basket on an assist from Oliver for a 37-30 margin.
But the Hawks answered the bell. Marcus Aluquin (game-high 11 points) sank a 17-foot jumper, and Whitaker converted a pair of steals into three makes from the charity stripe to knot the game at 37-all. Vin Patel canned two shots from the free-throw stripe with 20 seconds remaining for a 40-37 lead.
“At this point in the season you know you’re going to get some drag-down, grind-it-out games like that,” said Metea Valley coach Bob Vozza. “Our defense was great all night and kept us in the game early when things weren’t going well offensively.”