Adam Nicol drained a short floater in the final seconds of overtime to lift the Northland Prep boys basketball team to its third consecutive win Friday night, beating Lee Williams 49-48.
After Lee Williams (2-1) missed a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left, the Spartans moved the ball up the court and junior Brody Hibbert found Nicol cutting across the free-throw line to the basket.
Nicol took the pass with five seconds remaining and weaved through Volunteer defenders before floating the ball up and in with just two seconds to spare.
“I just did what I do every day in practice, and floated it up, and banked it in,” the senior said.
“I felt it, that I would be taking our last shot,” he added.
While the Spartans (3-2) held the lead for the first quarter, the Volunteers made a strong comeback in the second half. Neither team was able to hold the lead for long, and an 11-point run for the Spartans early on set the tone that NPA could hang against the bigger school opponent.
“I think we took them by surprise in the beginning, and they woke up and we might’ve relaxed a little bit,” said NPA coach Brett Larson. “But that’s a 4A team, and to beat a 4A team is a pretty good accomplishment.”
Northland Prep, a member of the 2A Conference, fell to its first 4A Conference opponent, Coconino, in the season opener and dropped another game to 3A Tuba City. Lee Williams, a member of the Grand Canyon Region like Coconino and Flagstaff, beat a pair of 2A schools in its first two games.
As the fourth quarter drew on, the crowd got more excited with each free throw. As the Spartans pulled ahead by three in the final moments, it seemed as though they could pull off the upset. But Volunteers junior A. J. Herrera hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime.
“Our team is a fighting team, and when they hit a turnaround 3 to put it in overtime, it’s pretty easy to get down, and there was no quit in their eyes,” Larson said. “I told them it was a challenge and to pick it up a notch.”
Larson challenged his team to make sure Herrera didn’t burn them again in overtime, and the Spartans held the Volunteers’ clutch shooter scoreless in the extra frame.
“We had their guy who hit the turnaround 3, I don’t think he scored in the overtime,” Larson said. “We said, 'Shut him down,' and Brody did. The defensive intensity was really good in the second half and overtime.”
The Spartans quickly grabbed the lead in overtime on a Hibbert steal that led to a Nicol basket. But Lee Williams answered and seized the lead in the final minute.
The Volunteers, however, couldn’t ice it at the free-throw line, missing two shots in the final seconds, which opened the door for Nicol’s game-winner.
“I didn’t think anything different from the fourth quarter,” Nicol said. “I thought, all right, they made a 3-pointer, and we all just considered 3 minutes more on the fourth quarter. I mean, we come back just as hard as we did, if not harder. And we do exactly what we’ve been doing.”