By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — On a night set aside to celebrate the city’s basketball past, the current Anderson boys team provided hope for the future.
The Indians outlasted North Central Conference rival Muncie Central 59-57 in overtime, snapping a five-game losing streak without the services of leading scorer Kenya Wilkerson.
“Obviously, we play better at home,” Anderson coach Joe Nadaline said. “We’ve gotten beaten by some pretty good teams in the past couple weeks. This was a great atmosphere, and our guys really responded.”
The outcome was in doubt until the final seconds when the Bearcats’ Joe Williams drove for an open look at the basket. His layup from point-blank range rolled off the side of the rim, and Grant Bennett pulled down the rebound to seal the victory for the Tribe.
“It was nice to see one roll off the rim inside of rolling inside,” Nadaline said. “It’s something to build on.”
Bennett finished with team highs of 20 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 3-for-5 from 3-point range and helping Anderson erase a 10-point second-quarter deficit.
FreSan Reese capped an 11-0 run to end the half with a steal and layup to give the Indians (7-10, 2-4 NCC) a 31-30 advantage at intermission.
The teams traded the lead back and forth in the third quarter before the Tribe pulled away toward the end of the period and took a 42-38 edge into the final stanza.
Muncie Central (7-7, 2-3) regained the lead at 49-48 with less than three minutes to play in regulation on a basket by freshman Trenton Hatfield. Thomas Wells, who shot 8-for-10 at the free-throw line and finished with 12 points, tied the game by making one of two attempts with 2:23 to play.
Nearly a full minute later, Wells stole the ball and score to put the Indians back in front.
Jay’lin Barnes tied the game again with a putback at the opposite end, but Reese’s jumper in the lane put Anderson back in front at 53-51 with 9.2 seconds remaining.
A collision near the 3-point line resulted in a foul on Bennett and put Marcus Dukes at the free-throw line with 3.4 seconds to play. He tied the score, and Reese’s 3-pointer from just beyond half-court rimmed out as the buzzer sounded to force overtime.
“I thought the guys just competed,” Nadaline said, referencing a host of players who contributed.
Freshman Zac Owens scored eight points in his first start, and Kobe Clay added eight points and 10 rebounds. Tony Bova came off the bench for some critical defensive support, and Djuan Peel added energy at both ends of the court.
The Indians were playing without Wilkerson, who injured his knee during practice this week and will be out indefinitely.
“At some point, I always tell (the younger players), they’re going to get their chance to play,” Nadaline said. “With Kenya out, there’s 32 minutes up for grabs.”
On Friday, the Indians played 36.
The extra period began with a putback by Clay, and Anderson moved in front 57-53 on a driving layup by Peel.
Dukes made one of two free throws for Muncie Central, and Bennett answered with a layup to make it 59-54. Then the Indians held on.
Dukes made a pair of free throws with 45.5 seconds left, and Hatfield made one of two with 37.4 remaining to pull the Bearcats within two points. Hatfield got the rebound after his miss, but his shot attempt was blocked.
Clay came out of a long scramble with the ball and went to the free-throw line with 9.4 seconds remaining. He missed, and Muncie Central called timeout with 7.5 seconds to play.
Williams got a good look at the rim but couldn’t convert, and the Indians escaped with the victory.
It was the perfect cap to a night that also saw former Mr. Basketballs Roy Taylor, Ray Tolbert and Kojak Fuller honored during an emotional halftime ceremony.
“This was a wonderful evening,” Nadaline, who kept his players on the court to witness the halftime festivities, said. “It was really, really important for these guys to stay and understand how important these (legends) were to the city of Anderson. They are the reason these guys get to play in front of all these fans.”