STEVENSON, MD -- If Athletic Director David Owens had written a script for the school's two-day tournament this weekend, the Towson Catholic Tip-off Classic at Villa Julie College, he would probably have made just one change. A different team would have won the finale, a double overtime contest between the host team and a Top Five team from the Washington, DC, area.
National Christian Academy pulled out a double overtime 56-55 win following the lead of Loyola (MD) recruit Charlie Bell who did virtually everything in that final extra period.
The best was saved for last. The game started 75 minutes late, about the time the teams would have started the fourth quarter if the schedule had been on time. But what event really has a chance to stay on time when there were five pervious games on the docket?
Towson Catholic jumped out to an early 4-0 lead but NCA fought back as the intial period ended with the host up 10-9. Towson Catholic had a 9-3 run to open the second period. NCA then scored the next six to bring the game back to one point at 19-18 as the half ended.
Towson Catholic took a 23-20 lead at the beginning of the third period on Matt Stephenson's short jump shot. NCA took its first lead at 24-23 with 5:30 reading on the clock on a Chris Matthews layup.
Stephenson hit a layup at the 2:25 mark to knot the game again at 29. Earl Risby answered to put NCA back up by two. Then Stephenson hit a trey to give the host the lead again at 32-31 with 1:38 on the third period clock. Towson Catholic scored the last five points of the quarter to take a 37-31 lead into the closing period.
NCA scored the first six points of the fourth to tie the score at 37-37 with 5:04 left in the game. An 8-3 run gave the host a 45-40 lead with 3:15 to go in regulation. Bell scored four points (layup and 2-3 FTs) to get NCA within three at 47-44 with 2:01 on the clock. Towson Catholic's Darnell Hopkins ended a run of three missed free throws when he hit one of two at 1:11 to up the score to 48-44. Two free throws by Earl Risby tied the score at 49-49 at 0:40.5. No one scored in the remaining moments to put the game into overtime.
Gordon Klaiber hit one of two free throw attempts to give NCA a 50-49 lead at the 3:34 mark of the extra period. Jamal Smith did the same to bring the score to 50-50 at 2:19. Donnell King drove for a layup to put NCA on top with 2:01 left in the overtime. After another 1-2 free throw effort by Towson Catholic, Stephenson was sent to the free throw line when National Christian was called for a bench technical as six players left Head Coach Trevor Brown's timeout (called by TCHS) circle and were guarding against the host's in-bound play. Stephenson canned one of two to knot the score at 52 with 0:09.6 left in the game. Towson Catholic was unable to score on the ensuing in-bounds play. A second overtime, at least, would be needed to decide this contest.
That's when NCA's Charlie Bell took over. First he rebounded a Towson Catholic missed jumper. The after a steal by Earl Risby, Bell drove to the basket and with the resulting free throw gave NCA a three-point lead at 55-52.
Bell moved to forward when Klaiber fouled out and pulled down two more rebounds. There was no scoring by either team until TCHS's Jamal Smith hit a three-point field goal to tie the game at 55-55 with 63 seconds left.
Chris Slade hit the first of two free throws at 0:33.9 to put NCA up 56-55. After Bryan Joynes rebounded Slade's second attempt, TCHS brought the ball upcourt and eventually called a time out with 0:12.8 on the clock.
Smith inbounded the ball to Hopkins, who kicked it out from the corner to freshmen Carroll Mitchell. Mitchell's jumper as time expired was off target to the right.
National Christian was playing without two of its starters. West Virginia recruit Jabbar Young, suspended by school administrators the previous night, was in civies on the bench as a result of Coach Brown's team suspension. And junior Keith Blanks remained on campus as a result of a disciplinary decision by Coach Brown.
Before the game, Coach Brown said, "It's hard but it's what we have to do for this team to get through our schedule. Hopefully the kids will learn and we can play some basketball."
King again led Natoinal Christian with 13 points. Bell ended up with 11 and Risby 10 points. Towson Catholic was led by Hopkins' 18 and Smith's 14 points.
National Christian Towson Catholic
Bell 11 Hopkins 18
King 13 Smith 14
Klaiber 5 Joynes 6
Risby 10 Stevenson 9
Matthews 7 Hunter 3
Slade 5 Mitchell 3
TOTALS 56 55