The Eagles used a 16-0 run in fourth quarter to rally past Hickory, 65-52.
HERMITAGE -- For the Grove City Eagles, it was a hard-fought victory, while for the Hickory Hornets, it is simply one that got away.
For the first 24 minutes of Tuesday night's District 10, Region 5 matchup, the game belonged to Hickory as the Hornets held a 47-41 lead.
However, during the final eight minutes, it was all Grove City as the Eagles scored 16 unanswered points in the middle of a 24-5 quarter to walk off with a 65-52 win.
"Our last three league games have been like this one," said Hickory coach Nick Cannone. "We have played good ball for 3 1/2 quarters against some pretty good teams, but then we fall apart. We have a young team, but what is young now? These kids have played 17 games.
"In the beginning of the season, it was the first quarter that gave us a lot of problems, but now I think we are closing the gap. What it all comes down to is you have to make plays. You have to be able to win games like this one against good competition, and right now we are not doing that."
First half belongs to Hornets
The teams were deadlocked at 16-16 after one period before Grove City held a 20-19 lead two minutes into the second quarter. That is when the Hornets outscored the Eagles 12-4 to take a 31-24 lead to the dressing room.
"We were able to break their press and get some tempo going," said Cannone. "That was the big difference in that stretch."
During the third period, the two teams took turns answering each other's scoring efforts as the Hornets still held the upper hand by a half dozen.
But then came the disastrous fourth quarter for the Hornets.
"In our last three home games, the same things happened," said Cannone. "We missed layups, we missed foul shots, we turned the ball over and just self-destructed.
"If you have a 'go-to' guy, you put the ball in his hands, let him go and he'll make the proper decisions. Right now we don't have that type of guy and against a team as good as Grove City is, you can't make the mistakes we made and expect to win."
As for what was to come his team's way, that might have happened to the Hornets on the first play of the final period.
"We are up six and miss a chippie," said Cannone. "The kid drives down the middle and misses the shot. If he makes it, we are up eight. When that happens, it starts to get in the kids' heads and that is what happened to us tonight."
Many of the Hickory mistakes were the result of one thing -- the Eagles' pressing man-to-man defense that caused a lot of turnovers and missed opportunities for the Hornets.
"We don't have a true point guard and we don't have that type of guy on this team," said Cannone. "We didn't handle their pressure for the most part and you have to give coach [Don] Fee a lot of credit with the way he used it. He put it on early and gave us some problems, then he backed off before putting it back on later in the game. That is when it really hurt us.
Leading the Eagles to their win was Ryan King with a game-high 23 points, while Justin McNamara added 14.
For Hickory, Ian Haynes led the way with 18 points. Mick Janusko tallied 11 but was shut out in the fourth quarter.