By Russell Moore
For The Times
If any basketball program deserves to be mobbed by its students after a thrilling overtime victory, it’s Hanceville, considering there hasn’t been much normalcy for the school’s boys or girls since the April 2011 tornadoes destroyed their high school gymnasium.
That was one thing on Bulldog coach Daniel Wakefield’s mind after his team’s 55-50 overtime victory over Hamilton in a Class 3A sub-regional contest Friday night.
“Not a lot has gone our way at times. We’ve practiced at three or four different places and played home games here at the middle school and at Wallace State,” Wakefield said. “To get this win for these guys is huge. It’s not only for them, but for the entire community, as you can see by their reaction.”
After prevailing at the middle school gym Friday night, the Bulldogs (16-13) will now return to the familiar Tom Drake Coliseum at Wallace State — this time for some postseason basketball at the Northwest Regional. Hanceville will make its first regional appearance since 2007 and play Madison Academy (20-12), which was a 73-66 winner over Deshler on Friday.
Hanceville had to wait an extra period to celebrate and finally exhale after a ferocious run by Hamilton in the final five minutes of regulation. Jon Langley’s 3-point play with 56.3 seconds remaining in regulation capped off a 10-0 Aggie run and tied things at 46-46.
Hamilton earned its lone lead of the game in overtime on a pair of Jesse Box free throws at the 3:16 mark.
Hanceville’s Keith Twitty assured the deficit didn’t last long. He drained a clutch 3-pointer only 14 seconds later, saving his only bucket for an opportune time.
Hanceville’s Chris Smith followed with an uncontested layup on the Bulldogs’ following possession, extending the lead to 51-48, and Brontae Harris sealed the deal by making four free throws in the final 18.4 seconds.
“The shot Keith (Twitty) made in overtime is a good example of the huge shots we’ve been getting from a variety of guys. We again had a lot of guys play well, including the bench,” Wakefield said. “Chris Smith played a great game. He dominated the boards in the first half, and we dominated the boards as a team. I don’t feel like Brontae (Harris) played his best game, but he made free throws to ice the game.”
Harris finished with a game-high 28 points, and Smith poured in 12 of his 18 in the first half.
Mitch Stults led Hamilton in the loss with 17 points, Langley had 13 and Charles Metcalf contributed 10.
Hanceville led 16-10 after the first quarter and 26-16 at the half. Despite Hamilton closing the gap in the third quarter with an 11-3 run, the Bulldogs maintained a 35-29 advantage after three quarters.
Hanceville extended the cushion to 44-29 with 5:12 remaining in regulation before Hamilton closed it on a 17-2 run to force overtime.
Hamilton closed the season at 16-12.