By John Bassetti
For three quarters of the game, it looked as if Windham wouldn’t get another one of its many district championships under coach Marty Hill.
Windham recovered after a weak offensive first half to sting Warren JFK, 62-55, in double overtime in the boys Division IV district basketball championship game at Warren Harding on Friday night.
“We chased [them] for two quarters and two overtimes,” Hill said of rallying after his Bombers trailed by 12 points in the third quarter. “We were chasing them the whole time. We had to do that to get them out of their offense.”
Windham didn’t have much offense as evidenced by 7 of 23 field-goal shooting in the first half, followed by a woeful 5 of 20 in the third quarter.
When the Bombers (13-10) finally found their range, it was a role reversal for JFK (12-11).
“I thought our defensive effort in the first half was good,” JFK coach Shawn Pompelia said of leading by 29-18 at halftime.
“I think [in] the third quarter the momentum felt like it was shifting,” he said of his Eagles being outscored, 12-8, in the third, then again, 15-8, in the fourth quarter.
“We needed to get that back,” Pompelia said. “But, when you shoot 9 of 22 from the foul line you won’t win a district championship. That’s where we lost the game.”
JFK finally lost its lead at the outset of the second overtime, 54-52, on Jeremy Isler’s bank shot following the four-minute overtime’s tipoff that went in Windham’s favor.
Isler had 15 points and Matt Knight 14 for the Bombers, who won their 17th district crown under Hill, including five straight from 2003-04 through 2007-08.
Knight, a sophomore, had nine of his points in the game’s last 16 minutes.
“We tried to hurry to get them out of their rhythm and I think we did,” Hill said of his team’s defensive effort. “When you’re ahead that long and, all of a sudden, you start to lose it, I think it worked against them. So that helped us.”
Not helping JFK was the loss of three players to fouls, including Raitwann Gaston, who incurred his fifth personal just before the end of regulation.
As the overtimes unfolded, Carl Broadbent and Patrick Hull also took their places back on the bench.
Martae Hainesworth and Brendan Cox had 17 and 16 points, respectively, for JFK.
“Ray does a heck of a job for us and rebounds,” Pompelia said of Gaston. “As a junior, he’s learning the game. When you’re playing in the first and second overtime, it affects your legs and they go a little deeper [subs off the bench] than we do.”
The Eagles were just 3 of 13 from the free throw line in the overtimes.
JFK also committed 13 of its 18 turnovers in the second half.
For the game, Gaston had 10 of JFK’s 37 rebounds, while Hainesworth had nine rebounds and Broadbent seven rebounds. Hull had six assists.
After 12 of 43 goals in the first three quarters, Windham came back to make 7 of 17 in the fourth period and both overtimes — a marked improvement.
“They killed us in every phase of the game,” Hill said in reviewing the first half.
“We were like in a daze — just standing around and turning the ball over. We had no cuts on offense. It was one pass, shoot the ball; one pass, turn the ball over. The kids played awful. I told the kids [at halftime] that ‘The good thing is you played awful and they shot the ball pretty well and they’re up 11.’ I told them that we have plenty of time, but we’ve got to change the way they play offense. I told our guys that they’ve got to be a little smarter.”
In the end, Windham connected on 19 of 60 goals and 21 of 34 free throws, while JFK finished 21 of 60 from the field and 9 of 22 from the line.
The teams met recently — on Feb. 15 — when JFK won, 59-39.
JFK was a district titlist two years ago, and Maplewood was the defending district champion.