Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher’s team and fans react after Bradley Curtis hit a game-tying alley-oop to force overtime. Despite 38 points from Curtis, the Eagles fell in OT to the Coolidge Bears, 61-57.
By Jon Johnson
THATCHER – No. 3 Coolidge (8-0 region, 11-1 conference, 22-2 overall) kept its unbeaten region record intact against No. 10 Thatcher (5-3 region, 10-5 conference, 19-6 overall)on Friday night, but it had to go into extra time to do so . . . again.
Bradley Curtis dropped a season-high 38 points but the Thatcher Eagles fell in overtime to the Coolidge Bears for the second time this season. Thatcher’s rally came just short as Coolidge outscored the Eagles in the extra period, 8-4, to take the victory, 61-57.
The win gives the region to Coolidge with just two regular-season games remaining, and Thatcher remains in the No.2 spot in the South Central Region – one game up on ALA-Ironwood, which split with Thatcher for the season.
It was all Curtis all the time for the Eagles – especially in the first half as Curtis had all 13 of Thatcher’s first-quarter points and 21 of its 24 first-half points. A solo 3-pointer from Brandon Napier was the only other points scored by any Eagle other than Curtis in the first half.
It wasn’t as if Thatcher intentionally ran everything through Curtis either, he was just always around the ball, hustling to get rebounds and putbacks and such.
Meanwhile, Coolidge was spreading the wealth around and was hitting from inside and outside to give itself a nice lead.
After Napier’s 3-pointer tied it at 16-16 early in the second quarter, Coolidge went on a 10-2 run, and the Bears took a 32-24 lead into halftime.
Scoring was tighter in the third quarter and Coolidge managed to increase its lead ever so slightly to 44-35 as the teams headed into the last quarter of play.
That’s when Thatcher’s defense locked down and Coolidge helped out by missing some shots near the rim. Thatcher doubled up Coolidge in the final quarter of regulation as Curtis got some assistance in the offensive department, yet there were still more end-of-the-game heroics to play out.
Down two with 8 seconds left, Napier drove to the right baseline as his defender, Dru Madrid, appeared to flop. Napier spun away toward the basket and right into Mark Clegg Jr. The ball spurted out and Coolidge’s Josh Pratt took a couple of dribbles down the court but then stepped out of bounds right in front of his own bench to turn the ball back over to Thatcher with 1.2 seconds left. After Thatcher’s inbound attempt was tipped away, the Eagles had just one last shot, but the previous play had fortuitously set them up for what Phoenix Suns fans may recall as the “Valley Oop” as utilized by Deandre Ayton to beat the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals last year.
With just .7 of a second left to play the Eagles had the ball on side inbound play on their side of the court. Bradley Curtis was double-teamed by Mark Clegg Jr. and Belclem Namegabe. Curtis curled around and lost Namegambe behind him as Clegg went to cover another player. T.J. Reed then threw in a pass toward the rim just over the outstretched arms of Coolidge’s Carlos Coronado. Curtis snatched the alley-oop in mid-air and laid it up to force overtime as the ball went through the net as the buzzer sounded and the crowd went wild.
In overtime, the Eagles were down by two, 55-57, with 1:19 left in overtime when Napier was fouled driving into the lane and calmly hit both free throws.
Tied at 57-57 with a minute left in overtime, Coolidge senior 6’4” point guard Mark Clegg Jr. brought the ball down the court and went mano-y-mano against Napier at the top of the key. Clegg motioned his teammates to clear out as he then took Napier to the left of the lane. T.J. Reed popped in briefly to help but then retreated to his man, allowing Clegg the space he needed to go up over the outstretched arms of Napier and hit the bucket.
Down 59-57 with 29 seconds left in the game, Tanner Palmer drove into the lane and kicked out a pass to the perimeter. The pass appeared to be to Hudson Green behind the 3-point arc, but T.J. Reed was also in the area and the ball bounced off him and out of bounds to the Bears.
Clegg then took the ball downcourt and drove the left side of the lane the same as before but this time he left it for a crashing Belclem Namegabe as Bradley Curtis left him to help on defense. Curtis recovered just in time to have Namegabe’s layup go past his outstretched hands and into the bucket to give the Bears the four-point advantage with mere seconds left to play.
Josh Pratt led the Bears with 15 points; followed by Brayden Gant and Mark Clegg Jr. with 13 points each, and Dru Madrid with 12.
After a Napier 3-point attempt clanged off the rim, the Eagles recovered the rebound but it was all over as T.J. Reed fumbled the ball into the lane as time expired.
The Eagles will regroup Tuesday, Feb. 8 when they host the Globe Tigers, starting at 7 p.m. Thatcher will have its final regular-season game on the road at Florence on Friday, Feb. 11.
In other local boys hoops action
In 2A, No. 6 Pima (8-0 region, 10-1 conference, 18-5 overall) defeated Willcox 68-29.
Pima has won the 2A East Region regular season but will face a tough matchup Saturday night against overall No.1-ranked Scottsdale Christian, starting at 7 p.m.
The No. 13 Morenci Wildcats (3-4 region, 5-5 conference, 10-12 overall) defeated Tombstone, 70-37.
The Wildcats will next travel to Benson on Monday, Feb. 7, and Bisbee on Thursday, Feb. 10, before finishing the regular season at home against Tombstone on Friday, Feb. 11.
1A South & Tucson Tournament
Duncan defeated The Gregory School, 50-42, on Thursday and fell to St. David, 35-58, on Friday. Duncan will face Dishchii’bikoh on Saturday, starting at 3:30 p.m.