Though they might be listed in different divisions of the SOC during basketball season, the Northwest Mohawks and East Tartans know each other well.
Familiar foes got together in Sciotoville on Tuesday night, with the Mohawks capturing a 59-52 road win over the Tartans.
That victory didn’t come without a battle late into the fourth quarter before Northwest was able to close out the game.
“Going up to East is never an easy night,” Mohawks head coach Jason Smith said. “The crowd gets into it, and it’s such a small environment, and it’s so loud and really a tough place to play.”
Northwest was without senior point guard Mason Campbell as well, making the task even tougher.
Early on, the Mohawks were able to establish their offense and get in a rhythm. With four minutes to play in the first quarter, Northwest took an 8-2 lead with a score from senior Kyle Leslie.
Leslie would be big in a night limited by foul trouble with 15 points, and four in the opening period.
East had an answer right back with senior J.D. Hatcher who scored the first two baskets of the game for the Tartans. However, Hatcher would pick up his second foul with 2:30 to play in the quarter, and would have to sit for the rest of the first.
As a result, both offenses began to sputter and the Mohawks had a 9-6 lead after one.
In the second quarter, each team awoke from their offensive slumbers. Northwest sophomore Timmy Emmons was a boost to start things off for the Mohawks, scoring six consecutive points early on.
Emmons went on the spurt all in under a minute and a half, and gave Northwest a 17-10 lead with 5:34 before half.
On the night, Emmons would score 8 points, all in the second quarter.
Keeping things close as they would all night, East battled back with a score from Brayden Queen and another off a steal from Zach Garrett to make the county 17-14 with 5:04 to play. The score prompted Smith to take a timeout.
Queen and Garrett both had six points apiece in the game, and made plays on the defensive side of the ball as well.
Out of the timeout, the Mohawks went on a run of their own to take a 23-16 lead. First, it was senior Kaleb Smith connecting on a jump shot.
Smith was one of three Northwest players to finish in double figures, scoring 11 in the contest.
Answering a Hatcher score was sophomore Billy Crabtree, who finished with three points. Crabtree played a big part on the defensive end, creating problems with his length and versatility.
Then, 15 seconds later, junior Evan Throckmorton ripped the ball from the grasp of a Tartans player and hitting a layup.
Throckmorton finished with seven points starting in place of Campbell, and had several steals.
“Coming in as a bench player at the start of the season to starting at East, I never expected it,” Throckmorton said after the game. “I just, I’m shocked.”
East junior Will Shope brought the Tartans back late in the second with six points, making the score 28-22 at halftime in favor of the Mohawks.
Shope had a game-high 20 points, and was hard to guard on a few occasions once he got going towards the rim.
Again in the third quarter, each side slowed a bit in their scoring.
Northwest senior Hunter Berry had two quick scores to start the third, pushing the Mohawks lead to 32-22 with 6:50 to play.
Berry had five points total on the night, and was incredibly active defensively.
East got scores from four different players in the third quarter, looking to find a hot hand heading into the fourth.
After three, the Tartans trailed 39-30.
Once more in the fourth, both offenses improved drastically. Playing at breakneck speed throughout the quarter, each side would battle back and forth with East trying to pull off a comeback.
The Tartans put their trust in Shope and Hatcher in the final period, and the tandem delivered. They would both combine for 18 of the team’s 20 points in the fourth.
First, it was Shope who had his rally cap on for East.
Consecutive baskets from the point guard cut the lead to 41-34 with 6:10 to go, and though Northwest would respond, Shope was playing with a lot of confidence.
That became evident with four minutes to play on a drive from Shope aided by a crossover. Attacking the basket, Shope spun in the air and hit a floater as he completed his move. Then, on the next possession, Shope hit the spin move again and laid the ball in the basket with 3:40 remaining.
The layup made the score 45-41, but the Mohawks answered with a Leslie shot to take a six-point lead.
With right around three minutes to play, the Tartans then got a lift from Hatcher who score nine consecutive points for East.
Hatcher finished with 18 points for the game.
With 50 seconds left, Hatcher hit a three-pointer to make the score 51-50. After a lane violation on a free throw, the Tartans had a chance to take the lead but were unable to do so.
As a result, East was forced to foul and chose senior Garrett Rowe on the inbounds to take the foul.
That sent Rowe to the line, right in front of the student section for the Tartans who were loud and on their feet trying to create a diversion.
“I was nervous,” Rowe said. “They were all cheering and everything, waving. I just tried to block it out.”
Rowe hit the first free throw to give Northwest a two-point cushion. His second shot looked to be good, but clanged off the back iron. As the ball flew in the air, a battle ensued.
Ultimately, the ball touched the fingertips of Smith, who tapped it to Leslie.
As Leslie caught the ball right underneath the rim, he used his strength to put up a shot that found the bottom of the net. While shooting, Leslie was also fouled and completed a three-point play with the free throw.
“When we missed the free throw, Kaleb Smith jumped for it and just tipped it and kept it alive to Kyle,” Smith said. “He was able to just muscle it in and took it straight in there and hit the layup and got fouled.”
The play was costly for an East team that had come so close to closing out the comeback.
“We just never could get over the hump,” Tartans head coach Adam Bailey said. “There were a couple times late in the fourth quarter, two possessions where we missed a box out on a free throw and they got an offensive rebound and a put back.”
“They made a couple shots and plays at a crucial time, and we were one more play away I think from getting over the hump.”
Now with a 54-50 lead and 33.9 seconds to play, the Mohawks were in the driver’s seat. They would put on cruise control down the stretch, as Rowe hit four free throws to secure a 59-52 win.
“With a minute or two left, we were just missing everything and letting them hang around,” Smith said. “Finally, Garrett Rowe came up and he was huge hitting some free throws.”
The win for Northwest (4-9, 0-9) came at the right time, as the Mohawks hope this will help build some late season momentum.
“It’s huge going in to Friday night, where we’ve got Wheelersburg,” Smith said. “That’s a game that we were in at our place and they beat us by six, and I think we can go up there and compete.”
For the Tartans (3-7, 3-5) they put up a valiant effort before bowing down late.
“I thought our kids played extremely hard tonight,” Bailey said. “I thought their effort was exceptional that we battled back several times, and cut the lead whether it be two, four, six, or whatever it was.”
The game also saw two sophomores make their debut in Austin Smith and Jordan Huffman.
“It was the first time Austin Smith and Jordan Huffman have really played any varsity minutes,” Bailey said. “There comes a point in everyone’s career as a high school athlete when your number is called on and you have to hopefully step up and fit into your role, and we needed them tonight.”
Next on the agenda for East is a trip to Franklin Furnace on Friday for a date with Green, a team they beat 89-77 on Dec. 15.
“We’ve got two days of practice, and we’ll come in and work on some stuff that we think Green will do and things we think we can do well against Green,” Bailey said. “We’re just going to come and our goal is to get better every day.”