GRANVILLE – Down three with 1:49 left Tuesday, the Putnam County boys basketball team made its move.
The Panthers got the ball inside to Jackson McDonald for a bucket.
On the ensuing possession, Austin Mattingly got a steal and scored a layup in transition to give PC a one-point lead with 1:15 left.
“That was huge,” McDonald said. “We got a paint touch. It was one on one and I finished. Then we came down, had a good defensive possession and Austin made a heck of a layup. That was just hype. The crowd got into it. Everyone was loud. It was great.”
From there, the Panthers connected on 6 of 10 free throws to pull out a 53-46 victory over Fieldcrest before a packed house at R.M. Germano Gymnasium.
“It was a big game against a big 2A team, and hopefully that helps us when it comes to our regional seeding,” McDonald said. “It was a great regional atmosphere. The place was loud. Both teams had a big crowd. It was a good win.”
The loss snapped a 14-game winning streak for the Knights (21-7).
“I thought we were a little bit hesitant defensively,” Fieldcrest coach Jeremy Hahn said. “I wanted us to create a little bit more pressure throughout the game. We had a few too many uncharacteristic turnovers, but we competed hard. Putnam County is really good, so hats off to them. They played a really good game.”
The game was close throughout as neither team led by more than five points until PC used free throws to push the final margin to seven.
The Panthers started strong, grabbing an 8-3 lead before Fieldcrest tied it on a basket by Landon Modro and a 3-pointer by Brady Ruestman.
Putnam County led 12-11 after the first quarter.
Neither team led by more than four points in the second quarter and the Knights went into halftime up 21-19.
Fieldcrest put together an 8-2 run in the third, including five points by Ruestman, to take a 32-27 lead.
The Knights led 34-30 after three quarters on a runner by Jozia Johnson with 1.6 seconds left.
“When you win a close game, we didn’t do so well Friday night (in a 68-66 loss to Marquette), it definitely makes practice a little more fun tomorrow,” PC coach Harold Fay said. “We defended very well. We knew they had a bunch of shooters. We didn’t leave them open and we contested shots. I’m pretty pleased with everything.”
McDonald led the Panthers (21-7) with 31 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocks, while Mattingly finished with 14 points.
“We just took it to them because their big guys were in foul trouble,” McDonald said. “We thought we were stronger than them down low, so we brought the ball to the basket and finished.
“I struggled in the first half finishing. Shots were bouncing around. I just switched my mentality in the second half. I was like, ‘I have to score. This is where I need to score.’ And I came out ready to play basketball.”
The Knights were in foul trouble throughout the game as they were whistled for 22 fouls to nine for PC, while the Panthers attempted 33 free throws (making 21) compared to six for the Knights, who made four.
“We’re really aggressive, and they got a whole bunch more free throws than we did,” Hahn said. “[The foul disparity] affects it immensely, but we have to overcome that. You’re going to have that at times. We’ve got to do a better job playing without our hands and not foul. If the game’s going to get called in that way, we have to do a better job understanding the situation.”
Ruestman led Fieldcrest with 13 points, while Johnson finished with 10.