Trailing for much of the game, Joseph Reich and Nick San Souci sent the Basis Flagstaff Yeti fans into a frenzy at the end of the third quarter Monday night at Northland Prep High School.
After Reich tied the game for the first time since the opening minutes with a 3-pointer, San Souci followed on the next possession with his own 3 to give the Yeti their first lead since the first quarter as well. Holding a three-point advantage entering the fourth quarter, Basis never ceded the lead on the way to its first win against the Northland Prep Spartans, 41-37.
“Just soaking it in, literally,” said Yeti head coach Chris Bayer, soaked after his team mobbed the court following the final buzzer. “Definitely our biggest win ever. Considering where we were two years ago when we came in here and got killed by 40 in our first game ever, we have made some strides.”
Falling 65-29 to start the 2015-16 season, Basis’ first year with a boys basketball team, the Yeti then lost 47-35 last season against Northland Prep. Monday’s win didn’t come easy, with struggles at the free-throw line spoiling a potential larger advantage late, but the Yeti defense forced the Spartans into mistakes throughout the night.
Working out of a zone defense, Basis denied Northland Prep’s attack at the top of the key and into the high post, forcing tough passes over the defense into the baseline that were constantly contested.
“We knew they had the size advantage inside, so we just tried to disrupt the perimeter and it worked,” said Bayer, with Northland Prep held to single digits in each of the final three quarters.
Clinging to a 35-34 lead with 5:55 left, Basis proceeded to keep Northland Prep scoreless for more than five minutes while it slowly tacked on points at the free-throw line. Quinn Norris hit a pair at the line moments after a 3-pointer by the Spartans’ Drew Gibson, putting the lead back up to 37-34 and capping off his 13-point night to lead the Yeti.
Both sides went silent for nearly three minutes after Norris’ two free throws, with turnovers and missed field goals filling up the waning minutes. Karl Spinti, Reich and Spinti again split their trips to the free throw line to take a 40-34 lead, the largest of the night, until Fred Gooding put the pressure back on with a 3 with just 32 seconds left.
While the Spartans came away with a steal after a timeout, a turnover with 23 seconds remaining began a string of struggles back-and-forth for the two teams. Basis missed both of its free throws, leaving Northland Prep another opportunity before another turnover with 15 seconds left.
Returning to the free-throw line, the Yeti missed another pair, but the Spartans once again turned the ball over with nine seconds remaining. The one-possession game at 40-37 left Bayer under pressure on the sideline.
“Right before the last two free throws were shot by Nick San Souci, I told him I am over here having a heart attack, so please just make one of these two so we can win,” Bayer said. “We kind of struggle with free throws, so that's what we will be working on in practice tomorrow.”
Attacking Northland Prep’s man-to-man defense heavily throughout the night, Basis racked up trips to the free-throw line in the second and fourth quarters. Attempting 14 free throws in the second and 19 in the fourth, the Yeti took 42 free throws in the game, but struggled with just 17 made.
“We know they are a super aggressive team, so we just wanted to be strong with the ball,” Bayer said. “I was surprised at how quickly we got into the bonus and double bonus -- that was definitely a benefit for us.”
Adam Nicol put Northland Prep ahead early, scoring six of his team’s 11 first-quarter points and finishing with a game-high 16.
With scoring at a premium, Northland Prep led for the final 13 minutes of the second half, but never pulled ahead by more than five points. A 3-pointer for Gibson right out of the break put the Spartans ahead 23-17, but Max Dittberner answered right back with his own 3 for Basis.
From there, Norris paced Basis' offense while battling with Nicol for much of the third quarter. After a 1-of-2 trip to the line, Norris added a layup through a foul before Nicol hit a pair of free throws. Norris responded again with three free throws around a Nicol layup, setting the stage for Reich’s tying 3.
Northland Prep (5-5) travels to Tuba City on Wednesday while Basis (2-4) hosts Cibecue for a 1A Conference, Central Region game Tuesday.
NORTHLAND PREP 44, MINGUS MOUNTAIN 22
Earning their second win of the season and first within the 2A Conference Central Region, the No. 38 Northland Prep Spartans topped the No. 45 Mingus Mountain Mountain Lions (0-5) at home Monday night.
Improving to 2-6 this season with their first win against an AIA opponent this season, the Spartans will travel to Tuba City on Wednesday.