Boys Junior Varsity Basketball, Boys Varsity Basketball · Gophers edge Stars in final seconds

MANSON — It was a sectional-like atmosphere at Clinton Prairie on Friday night when Western Boone traveled into Clinton County for the regular-season finale.

The Stars did a lot of good things in their final game before the sectional, but lost a 52-51 contest on Collin Stroup free throw with 2.6 seconds left.

“Our guys battled the whole game,” Western Boone head coach Bronson Lickliter said. “We have had some heartbreakers here recently, but our kids haven’t been deterred. They have shown a lot of resiliency and hopefully we carry that into the sectional.”

 The Clinton Prairie gym was packed not only for senior night but for an alumni gathering.

It created a tough road environment that is going to help the Stars next week.

“It’s definitely going to help us,” Lickliter said. “It was a great atmosphere, and it was loud, so we had to call some things earlier. We had to make sure we were getting into our sets earlier, because when it gets loud it is tougher to hear calls and then you end up in a bad position.”

Western Boone led by eight at the end of the first quarter, and by six at the half.

They were out-scored 15-10 in the third quarter, leaving the visitors clinging to a 37-36 lead.

The lead was three with five minutes to play, when things started to go south for the Stars.

Western Boone got the ball inside on three-straight possessions, but couldn’t convert and the Gophers went on a 7-0 run to take a 43-39 lead with 3:54 to play.

“We talked about that in our timeout we took right after that,” Lickliter said. “We were attacking, and we had some poise, but we getting in a little bit of a hurry and it wasn’t quite in our offense. Those are things we have to continue to work at so we don’t lose those opportunities in the sectional.”

The teams traded baskets on the next couple of possessions and the Stars found themselves still down four with 70 seconds left.

But Cortez Stoudemire hit a 3-pointer, and after a WeBo steal, Connor Hole put the Stars in front 48-47 with 45 seconds to play.

Clinton Prairie rushed right back down the court and converted a three-point play to retake a two-point lead, and after a WeBo miss, Clinton Prairie’s Mitch Coapstick hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it a three-point game.

The Stars came down and Spencer Wright drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game with 10 seconds left, but as the Gophers brought the ball up the court, Wright was called for a blocking foul on the left win with 2.6 seconds left.

“We can really build off those last few minutes,” Lickliter said. “Earlier in the game, we weren’t making those plays, but in crunch time with the game on the line, we executed well. We have some of that composure and knocking down some big shots.”

Stroup made the second of two free throws, and Stoudemire had a good look from 3 for the win, but it was long.

Western Boone has lost six in a row heading into their sectional opener on Wednesday night against Greencastle, but Lickliter said they are doing some good things.

“Losing games doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made,” Lickliter said. “That is what we have emphasized this week. We have lost a couple here, but we are progressing heading into the sectional.”

Will Willems is the Sports Editor of the Lebanon Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Willems.