MONMOUTH — It’s nice to have options.

Given a second chance Tuesday night to drain the clock and design the game-winning shot, the Monmouth Academy boys’ basketball team harbored three potential perpetrators.

The third and most frustrated of the group, Robby Neal, swished a 3-pointer with three seconds remaining in overtime to secure the Mustangs’ 49-44 MVC victory over St. Dominic Academy.

“Really frustrated,” said Neal, a senior and typical double-digit scorer who was held to two points by a smothering St. Dom’s defensive effort prior to his heroics. “They were face guarding me the whole game.”

Just as it did at the end of regulation, Monmouth (7-2) took possession with the game tied just inside the one-minute mark and drained most of the clock, using two timeouts to assert control over the chess match.

Point guard Tim Whitmore’s primary assignment was to quarterback a pick-and-roll, with the ball ticketed for the hands of big man Roger Bachelder.

He also had the option of driving to the rim or taking his own pull-up jumper, which worked all evening to the tune of a game-high 22 points.

When it appeared that St, Dom’s (3-6) had both those avenues blocked, Whitmore spun around and spotted Neal beyond the 3-point line in front of the home grandstand.

“Then I just set a screen,” Whitmore said.

Neal used the resulting elbow room to break a 44-all tie, but the Saints weren’t quite finished.

Jake Sicotte’s 65-foot launch almost hit its target, brushing off the side of the rim. It wouldn’t have counted, anyway, because the officials had awarded St. Dom’s coach Ryan Deschenes a timeout with 2.4 seconds to go.

David Dean ran the baseline after the stoppage in play and fired the length of the court hoping to set up a closer desperation heave. The ball slipped through St. Dom’s hands.

Whitmore applied the exclamation point with two free throws.

Jeremy Ashlock added nine points on three 3-pointers for Monmouth, which won for the fourth time in its last five games. Bachelder finished with six points and 14 rebounds.

Tom Applegate, a 6-foot-6 junior, fell just shy of a big man’s triple-double with 13 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocked shots for St. Dom’s.

The Saints have dropped four straight, including single-digit losses to once-beaten Wiscasset, Winthrop and now Monmouth.

“I don’t think we’re the prototypical 3-6 team,” Deschenes said. “We’re playing teams that are 6-2, 7-2, and we’re right there. We’re working hard. We’re playing good defense. We’ll get one, and then that confidence will carry over.”

This one seemed destined to go the distance and beyond from the start. Monmouth built its biggest lead of the game, seven points, in the first quarter on two Ashlock 3-pointers and another by Drew McFarren.

St. Dom’s rallied for a 25-24 halftime advantage and a 31-30 edge at the end of three. The Saints’ largest lead was three points, 43-40, in overtime.

Whitmore’s drive-and-bank with 1:39 remaining in the extra session produced the 14th and final lead change.

“A lot of our juniors and seniors were around last year when we were 10-8 but lost a few of these,” Monmouth coach Lucas Turner said. “Now we’re starting to win them. At no point tonight did I think, ‘Oh, no, we’re going to choke this away.’ ”

McFarren also nailed a big bucket in overtime, sinking a six-foot jumper on a backdoor cut. It answered three free throws by Dean and Zak Johnson that gave the Saints their early cushion.

St. Dom’s rallied from four points down in the final 1:40 of regulation.

Whitmore scored seven in the period to give Monmouth a 40-36 lead. Sicotte drove for two to halve that margin.

Applegate’s ninth swat of the game and a Joe Bryant rebound then set the stage for the Johnson brothers. Senior Kurt (12 points, five rebounds, four assists) found sophomore Zak for an open 10-footer along the baseline to tie it.

After two timeouts, Monmouth put the ball in Whitmore’s hands, but his lay-up rattled too strongly off the glass. Applegate grabbed the carom and later ended up with a 12-footer for the win that rattled in-and-out at the horn.

“That was in and then we would have been standing here 20 minutes ago,” Turner said. “Both times we tried the strategy where we could only tie and couldn’t lose, but we left them a little too much time with that first one.”

St. Dom’s and Monmouth each lost in the Western Class C preliminary round of last year’s playoffs. The Mustangs’ win over the Saints’ in the regular-season finale clinched their first Class C playoff berth in 33 years.

“We want to wear white at the (Augusta) Civic Center this year,” said Whitmore, alluding to the top four seeds’ distinction as home teams for the quarterfinals. “So we want another 7-2 in the second half.”

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: