This one went into the wrong hands, bouncing toward the top of the key where Norsemen senior Lance Pasakarnis captured it and then dished to his right where junior Dylan Long was eyeing up a game-winning three.
Everything was in place for home cooking heroics. Even to an antagonist like Harris, whose defensive pressure was key throughout the game and at the very end as he sailed in front of Long to disrupt his three-point try at the buzzer.
The shot landed short and sophomore Nick Michalek and junior Quinn Rome knocked it away to secure Sandwich’s 44-42 victory.
“You just have to play as hard as you can for those minutes, those final seconds because you don’t know what is going to happen,” Harris said. “So you know how to play defense and you play defense as hard as you can and play as a team and play as one.”
Harris, a junior, scored on a drive to open the fourth quarter and had another that made it 42-39 in the final minutes. He played a vital role offensively in the second half where he scored all six of his points.
“I just try to get to the hoop and score as much as I can,” Harris said. “Defense is my thing. I play a big role on defense. I do anything I can to help the team.”
Sandwich (14-12) jumped ahead 19-10 after a basket from Michalek with 5:52 remaining in the first half.
Newark (9-17) was struggling to get anything going offensively, but found points by battling and winning the matchup on the boards.
Leading the way was junior Payton Wills, who snagged three offensive rebounds that he put right back up for points in the final 4:30 of the second quarter. He finished with 13 points and eight rebounds of lead the Norsemen.
Willis sparked a 14-3 run to close the first half and give the Norsemen a 24-22 lead at the half.
“Payton Wills was huge, he came off the bench and he’s been playing really well,” Newark coach Kyle Anderson said. “A couple of the young guys are playing well and he kind of turned the game with some offensive rebounds. And it was the only offense we could get early. Once that happened we settled down and realized we’re fine once we know what we’re doing defensively. Once we locked into that, outside of a few bad possessions in the fourth quarter, I though we played really good defensively. That little run in the first half was bad, but after that, for the first quarter until the last three minutes, we played really good defense.”
Sandwich improved to 3-3 in games decided by five or less points while Newark dropped to 0-3 in those games.
“In fourth quarters against good teams you’ve got to win the turnover battle, get good shots and not give up rebounds,” Anderson said. “We just made too many mistakes from our lead guards.”
Long’s three-pointer tied the game at 42-42 late in the fourth quarter. It stood until Michalek converted a couple free throws to make it 44-42 with 56.9 seconds remaining. Long finished with nine points.
The Norsemen proceeded to work the clock down before congregating on the bench after Anderson called for a timeout with 14.5 seconds left.
Pasakarnis sent a bounce pass to Wills near the free throw line on the Norsemen’s final possession. Willis then tossed the ball to the far corner to Reggie Chapman, whose ensuing pass out top was batted forward by Harris.
“Our effort was there,” Sandwich coach Kevin Kozan said. “We didn’t get flustered, but we did 22 turnovers, which is rough.”
Playing without their big talented lefty Dom Rome proved challenging, especially since he’s Sandwich’s leading scorer. The 6-foot-5 junior missed his third consecutive game but is due back next Tuesday.
“It’s rough, especially on the offensive glass as you could see tonight,” Kozan said. “Dom is a big key for us, but we’ll get him back and get him healthy. Tonight they took advantage of our rebounding problems, but I think that will be fixed when Dom gets back.”
Chance Lange scored 13 points for Sandwich to lead the Indians while junior Quinn Rome had 12 points and eight rebounds.
“It was a great team effort and we had to play hard together,” Quinn Rome said. “It was a big win. We didn’t want to give them anything down low (at the end), no easy shots. We wanted to make them force a three and get a long rebound and we were able to get the rebound as the clock goes off.”
The Norsemen mustered quite the effort despite coming up short.
Sandwich had beaten Newark by 23 at the Plano Christmas Classic. The Norsemen had just lost by 28 points to Seneca on Tuesday.
“We were definitely more dialed in today than yesterday,” Pasakarnis said. “Being at home helped with that. We’re a lot more tight knit and it definitely helped they didn’t have their best player. That helped with our confidence knowing they’d be a little less dominant.”