GLADSTONE - A non-conference boys' basketball game went right down to the wire at the Gladstone High School gym Thursday night as the Braves squeezed past the Westwood Patriots 68-67 in an overtime thriller.
Junior forward Michael Cretens stole a pass to all but secure the decision with 2.4 seconds left in the overtime.
The Braves, however, missed a pair of free throws with 1.3 seconds remaining and the Patriots gained possession.
Keith Shelton |?Daily Press
Gladstone center Jared Vuksan drives to the net for a layup in the second quarter over Westwood defenders Jarrett Davidson (22) and Andrew LeSage (30) Thursday at Gladstone. Vuksan scored a career high 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Peyton Jurek of Gladstone lunges for a layup in overtime and is fouled by Westwood’s Ethan Couture on the way to the basket Thursday at Gladstone. Jurek later hit the game winning free throw with 9.9 seconds remaining.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Blake Ballard of Gladstone disrupts a pass intended for Westwood forward Ethan Couture (left) and creates a turnover Thursday at Gladstone.
Senior guard Jarrett Davidson then launched a shot from 3/4 court which bounced off the front of the rim as time expired, and the Braves were celebrating their third straight victory.
"It looked like it had a chance when the ball left his hands," said Braves' coach Phil Griebel. "Then, it hit the rim. I couldn't believe it."
Davidson's heave took place just moments after the Patriots committed their 23rd turnover.
Westwood 12 16 14 18 7 - 67
Gladstone 13 12 21 14 8 - 68
Westwood - Couture 24, French 20, Davidson 9, Prophet 9, LeSage 2, Quayle 4. FT: 12-26; F: 27; Fouled out: French, LeSage, Quayle; 3-point field goals: Couture 6, Davidson 2, French.
Gladstone - Jurek 10, Cretens 12, Ballard 4, Frazer 12, Vuksan 28, Closs 2. FT: 15-32; F: 21; Fouled out: Ballard; 3-point field goal: Frazer.
"That would have been a miracle shot," said Westwood coach Ryan Reichel. "That probably would have been on ESPN, had he made it."
The Braves (4-2) struggled from the free throw line in the overtime, converting just 2-of-9 shots. Senior guard Peyton Jurek, however, hit one that turned out to be the game-winner with 9.9 seconds left to play.
"Peyton's free throw and Michael's steal were huge," said Griebel. "This is one of the best shooting teams I've had in my six years (as jayvee and varsity coach). We shoot free throws well in practice. But for some reason we're struggling at the line in games."
The Braves took a 60-57 lead on a pair of gifters by Cretens with 37.8 seconds left in regulation.
Senior guard Zach French, however, sank a 20-foot jump shot from the right wing 15 seconds later to force the overtime.
Junior center Jared Vuksan hit a career-high 28 points, including a layup to put the Braves up 62-60 just 28 seconds into the overtime. He also grabbed 11 rebounds.
"We had a couple games where Jared didn't score much," said Griebel. "We tried to focus on getting him the ball. Good things happen when we do that."
Vuksan, showing a quick first step and strong move to the hoop, sneaked several times through the backdoor for layups.
"No. 50 (Vuksan) had whale of a game," said Reichel. "We told the kids to not let him go to his left, and we let him go to his left."
Cretens finished with 12 points and four assists. Senior forward Cody Frazer also hit 12 points and Jurek had 10.
"Both teams played real hard," said Griebel. "This was a good, physical game."
The teams combined for 48 fouls, including 27 by Westwood. Three starters fouled out for the Patriots.
Senior forward Ethan Couture, who sank six triples, led the Patriots (1-4) with 24 points. French finished with 20.
Gladstone held a 28-25 rebounding edge, hit 26-of-65 field goals and committed 18 turnovers. The Patriots were 23-of-56 from the floor.
"It seemed like both teams did everything they could to give the game away," said Reichel. "We didn't shoot well from the line (12-of-26), and we took some early 3s we should have taken. This is a tough one to swallow right now. We have a lot of guys who don't have much experience. Although, we some some resiliency throughout."
Westwood trailed 11-1 late in the first quarter and 46-37 with 25 seconds left in the third. The Patriots, however, battled back each time.
The Braves hit 7-of-10 gifters in the first half, but finished 15-of-32 from the line. They host Big Bay de Noc Jan. 3.
Gladstone also won the jayvee contest (68-51) and freshman game (58-43).