By Matt Nestor
The Boylan Titans entered a critical weekend in the conference with a lot of pressure. Playing on the road at Auburn and Jefferson, the Titans could either ice the NIC-10 with two wins, or find themselves in second place with two losses. Things got off to a great start for Boylan to start the trip. After a tight back-and-forth game that saw Boylan up by 1 point entering the fourth, the Titans put away Auburn at the free-throw line to escape with a 73-63 victory over the Knights. “To our kidsí credit, we got down early, we hung in there and played like Titans,” coach Steve Goers said of Boylanís effort. “Early, we werenít making good decisions, but we did late.” The Titans also offset a scorching J.D. Danforth, who scored 34 points for Auburn, with an equally-hot Austin Angel. The Boylan sophomore hit five 3-pointers, including four in the second quarter, when he helped keep Boylan close in a tight game, and finished with 26 points. “My teammates found me, and I just knocked down shots, “ Angel said of his performance. “It was a great feeling. I thought we did really well offensively and made some big stops defensively.” Auburn coach Bryan Ott said Angel was the player who kept Boylan in the game early. When Danforth got hot and Auburn built a 7-point lead, Angel was the one knocking down big shots to get his team back in the game. “Pretty much unstoppable,” Ott said of Angel. “He was probably the reason they were with us.” For Auburn, it was a struggle offensively. Fred Van Vleet added 16 points for the Knights, as he and Danforth combined for 50 of Auburnís 63 points. Ott said it was a tough game to drop at home, which likely ends Auburnís title hopes falling behind three games to Boylan. He said defense and rebounding is what ultimately did his team in. “They were the better team down the stretch when they had to be,” Ott said. “When we
needed to get stops and stop the ball, we couldnít do it. We got killed on the boards again. We had some good possessions where we allowed a contested perimeter shot, which led to an offensive rebound and put-back for them.” Goers agreed that rebounding was the difference in the game. He said his team focused all week on winning the rebounding battle, and players like Armani Flannigan and Nick Bauch made that happen “Flannigan and Bauch were
super for us,” he said. “We knew we had to beat them on the boards. The boards is the game. When we have a size advantage,
we have to do that.” Things looked great for the Titans the following night as they were able to build up a 19-point lead in the third quarter against the Jefferson J-Hawks with first place on the line. But Jefferson turned up the defensive pressure, and a wave of turnovers and easy layups got the J-Hawks within a basket of the lead on two separate occasions. Luckily for Boylan, they hit enough free throws, especially two from Chris Miller with 2.5 seconds left. When Marcus
Marshallís half-court heave fell through the basket, those two free throws proved to be the difference as the Titans hung on for an 84-83 win. The Titans only managed to shoot 65 percent from the freethrowline against the J-Hawks, but were aided by 43 free-throw attempts to only 18 for Jefferson. Miller, who finished the game with 15 points, hit 6-7 from the line, while Moorman hit 9-10 on his way to 18 points. “Credit to Jefferson, they never gaveup,” GoerssaidoftheJefferson near comeback. “Hopefully we get to play them three times, the third time would be in the sectional finals. We have an excellent team, and weíre very proud of the win tonight.” The J-Hawks were led by Marshall, who finished with 19 points, as well as Chris King and Mershon Wilkes, who both finished with 17 points and got to the rim at will in the second half. For Boylan, the win essentially put the conference title away. There are still four games left to play, but the Titans now sit two games over Jefferson and Hononegah. Goers said that while they take nothing for granted, he is happy knowing his team controls their own fate for the title. “We tell the kids, ëAs long as they take care of business, we donít have to worry about anybody else,í” Goers said. “We play one game at a time, take care of business, and good things will happen.”
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From the Feb. 10-16, 2010 issue