REGION 3-A CHAMPIONSHIP
GRACE ACADEMY 43, ARTS & SCIENCES 40
Arts & Sciences 10 14 9 7 -- 40
Grace Academy 10 10 9 14 -- 43
Arts & Sciences (40) -- Brogden 5, O'Hare, Patrick Taylor 11, Kurtz 4, Chaison Gordon 12, Carter, Houston 3, Moore 5.
Grace Academy (43) -- Johnston 3, Record 7, Corey Nelson 16, Smith 7, Hernandez, Tisdale, Austin Powell 10.
3-point goals: CSAS 3 (Gordon 2, Brogden); Grace 3 (Johnston, Record, Smith). Records: Grace 18-10; CSAS 11-15.
All tournament: William Long (Lookout Valley); Jonathan Kurtz, Chaison Gordon, Patrick Taylor (CSAS); Corey Nelson, Josh Smith, Stephen Record, Austin Powell MVP (Grace Academy), Sheldon Hitchcock (Van Buren).
For more than 22 minutes Grace Academy -- having struggled to make free throws, layups and even retain possession without turning the ball over -- trailed upset-minded Arts & Sciences. But with the score tied and the clock ticking down under a minute to play, Corey Nelson did what senior go-to players do: He put his head down, dribbled past one defender and laid the ball high off the glass and in for the go-ahead basket.
Nelson's layup, followed later by two free throws with eight seconds remaining, helped lift the Golden Eagles to a 43-40 victory over the host Patriots for the Region 3-A boys' basketball championship.
"We got down and their pressure gave us trouble for a while," said Nelson, who scored a game-high 18 points. "Earlier in the year when we would get down we had trouble coming back. But tonight we found a way, and I think that shows we have a toughness about us as a team now."
Grace (18-10), which has won 10 straight games, will host Clarkrange (19-15) in a Class A sectional Monday at 7 p.m., while Arts & Sciences (11-15) must travel to third-ranked Friendship Christian (24-3). Only the winner of Monday's games advance to the state tournament in two weeks.
After trailing by six midway through the first quarter, CSAS began to benefit from its continual pressure, and the Patriots rallied to tie the game by the start of the second quarter. Brandon Houston's layup early in the second started an 8-2 CSAS run that pushed the lead to seven. But Grace, which had beaten the Patriots in all three previous meetings, including twice by double digits, stayed within at least four throughout the third quarter and tied the game on Stephen Record's 3-pointer with 1:56 remaining.
"All through the second half we kept emphasizing that even though we hadn't played well, we were only down two possessions," Grace coach Jon Mattheiss said. "We were making shots and that's uncharacteristic of us this year, but we turned it up defensively and that helped get us going.
"It's really tough to be the same team, and a good team at that, four times in a season. We knew we didn't necessarily have to win this game, but it sure helps to play at home when you're trying to get to the state tournament."