In plotting a strategy to take on Bozeman last week, Seahawk coach Ray Bailey knew he had to neutralize the effect that the Bucks’ too-tall twosome in the paint would have on his team.
Even with his off-balance accuracy and deceptive moves, leading scorer senior Owen Poloronis couldn’t plan to just dance his way to the hoop, where 6-foot 5-inch Noa senior McClelland and 6-foot 4-inch junior Noah Gray would be on him with open arms.
Poloronis would have to steadily go long-range, and hope his season-long 44 percent accuracy from beyond the arc would serve the team well.
He didn’t hit his mark, he was nowhere near 44 percent.
Instead, he shot 71 percent, including four treys in a row to close out the third quarter and start the fourth, and bring the Seahawks back from an eight-point deficit, 36-28, to within one early in the fourth quarter.
And when senior Jaidyn Rhodes rebounded a missed free throw, and popped it in for the score, the Seahawks were back on top, 43-41.
After Gray hit a bucket to tie it, and McClelland a three-pointer to take the lead, Bailey called a timeout.
Poloronis capitalized on the confab by hitting his fifth trey, with 3:44 left, and the game was knotted at 46.
It was neck-and-neck the rest of the way, and trailing by two, 51-49, after McClelland hit a trey, the Seahawks had their work cut out for them with less than a minute to play. Bailey called another timeout.
This time it was Rhodes’ turn, as he hit his second three-pointer with 52 seconds left, putting the Seahawks ahead 52-51.
Following a Bucks’ timeout, junior Ethan Kembro, who led the team with nine rebounds, snagged a crucial carom.
A free throw by Poloronis missed falling by a fraction of inch to the wrong side, and with the Seahawks clinging to a one-point margin, the Bucks had ample time to get off the winning shot.
After Bucks coach Matt Granville called a timeout to avoid a likely game-ending foul committed on a Seahawk player, he mapped out a play that called for McClelland to take one of the trademark three-pointers that he had been delivering all night long.
But this time, it was just a little short, and the Seahawk crowd at the Nest Dec. 22 erupted in what had been the most exciting finish of the year.
The Seahawks had shot 51 percent from the field, 63 percent if you adjust for three-pointers, and 67 percent from the free throw line, moving closer to the respectable level that is a must for the second half of the season.
Poloronis had accounted for just a tad under half the team’s points, 25, with Rhodes adding 12, and senior Ta’shawn Jones six, plus six rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. Eighth grader Sadiq Jones nailed the only trey he took, and sophomore Ajaylen McNair and Kembro each two.
Kembro missed the three treys he took, but Bailey stressed in an interview after the game that he doesn’t want to see the talented 6-foot 4-inch junior, averaging 10 points and three assists a game, daunted.
“I told him, ‘You’re a shooter,” said the coach.
Following a 12-day break, and a 9-2 record overall, undefeated in district play, the Seahawks resume play Tuesday at Blountstown, as they face off against the 6-1 Tigers.
They’re at Liberty County Jan. 5 and then back home Tuesday, Jan. 10 against district rival Jefferson County.