Falcons overcome Raiders’ stall plan
By BOB ETTINGER
There was no doubt things were going to turn a little weird when Harding boys basketball coach Andy Vlajkovich had the Raiders stall holding a one-point advantage with about six minutes to play on Tuesday night.
The ploy worked for a bit, but failed in the end as the Falcons’ forced a turnover that eventually led to a bucket, propelling Fitch to a 50-44 win in All-American Conference Red Tier play.
Dylan Beany deflected an attempted pass and went on to miss a layup, but Randy Smith tallied on a putback for a 42-41 edge with 3:41 remaining.
“I had told my assistant that if they wanted to hold the ball for four minutes, we’d gladly stay in that zone,” Fitch coach Brian Beany said. “That zone was working and we weren’t coming out of it. We were going to try to keep the game as close as possible. That was a big steal.”
The bucket energized a silent crowd, as well as the Fitch bench.
“We had five guys on the floor and no point guard,” Vlajkovich said. “We were up one and the playbook was shortened a bit.
“I was trying to some guys a rest,” the Raiders coach said. “We had two guys in the wrong spot. That’s my fault. I should’ve called a timeout.
“That said, we had a chance to win at the end and we were 6-of-14 from the free-throw line, 1-of-5 down the stretch. That’s not good.”
A.J. Green added a score on a feed from Smith to push the advantage to three, 44-41, with 2:28 left for the Falcons (6-8, 4-5).
Delmar Moore’s charity toss and D’Muntize Owens’ drive down the lane knotted it back up, 44-44, with 1:08 to play.
“We botched a set and he got downhill,” Vlajkovich said.
Blake Baker broke the tie with a pair of free throws in the bonus with 54 seconds to go.
The Raiders (8-6, 7-2) missed an opportunity to tie it after a missed free throw in the bonus with 17.3 left before the Falcons also missed the front end of a one-and-one with 10.6 seconds remaining.
Everything took a sharp left turn for Harding from there. Vlajkovich tried to get a timeout, but with the crowd noise at a fever pitch and the officials watching action closely, it was granted for nearly seven seconds. A technical was assessed as Vlajkovich questioned why it took so long.
“I tried to get a timeout with eight seconds left,” Vlajkovich said. “It wasn’t given to me until there were 1.6 seconds left. It’s safe to say, I wasn’t happy about it.”
Baker knocked down both of the free throws and was fouled on the inbounds play. He sank both attempts in the double bonus to seal the victory.
“Blake did a phenomenal job at the end,” Brian Beany said. “He was on a roll. He’d made the last two, so I let him take those ones.”
Beany ignited a 10-2 run to put the Falcons ahead, 27-18, with 2:01 left in the first half. Chris Brown connected on a pair of 3-pointers during the stretch.
Moore netted four points and Trivell Trimble knocked home a triple to get the Raiders within two, 31-29, to start the second half.