Fort Recovery at New Knoxville photo gallery:
NEW KNOXVILLE — New Knoxville’s fourth-quarter push served as a stress test for No. 3-ranked Fort Recovery.
Turns out the Indians are pretty resilient.
Fort Recovery answered New Knoxville’s big run with one of its own in the last four minutes of the game to remain unbeaten in the MAC with a 47-37 victory.
The Indians (12-1, 4-1 MAC) haven’t been tested deep into a game often this season. Fort Recovery steamrolled its way through its first 12 games aside from a loss at UD Arena against top-flight competition in Walnut Ridge.
Outscoring opponents by an average of 19 points per contest during its run to a third-place state Associated Press ranking, the Indians have earned their frontrunner status in the Midwest Athletic Conference title chase by entrapping opponents in the first three quarters and long-since disposing of them by the time the fourth quarter rolls around.
“We haven’t been in a whole lot of games like this this year,” Fort Recovery head coach Brian Patch said. “I think we’ve had two games under 10 points in our wins besides our one loss.”
New Knoxville junior guard Jake Allen’s three-point play with 3:47 left drew the Rangers to within five points at 37-32.
“We kept telling our kids if we could just keep it close going into the fourth quarter we felt we had a decent defensive scheme to defense their better players,” New Knoxville head coach Kort Fledderjohann said. “At the least we wanted to make them feel some pressure in the fourth quarter.”
New Knoxville (6-7, 1-3 MAC) never appeared intimidated by an Indian team that has Columbus aspirations, burying early three-pointers and acting as a pest to the Tribe by staying within striking distance throughout.
Patch took a timeout before Allen shot his free throw and let his team know it was entering new territory.
“We told them in the timeout this is something we haven’t had the opportunity to play in this year, so we’ve got to see what our execution is at the end of a game,” Patch said. “Were we going to make our free throws? Were we going to execute?”
As quickly as New Knoxville made it a game, Fort Recovery responded with a 10-2 run of its own.
Wade Gelhaus hit an inside basket and Elijah Kahlig hit a running jumper to put the Indians back up by nine.
“We were able to step up and do those things,” Patch said.
The Rangers’ persistence paid off when it went on a 9-2 run in the first part of the fourth quarter to carve down what had been as large as a 12-point lead early in the fourth.
“Give them credit, for a young team they stepped up and hit shots every time to keep it close,” Patch said.
New Knoxville committed two costly turnovers during Fort Recovery’s run late in the game, however.
“We have some young kids and in crunch times we made a couple of bad passes and the youth came through in those last couple of minutes,” Fledderjohann said.
New Knoxville senior Lucas Leffel led the Rangers with 17 points with a 3-for-6 night from three-point range and a 6-of-7 night from the free throw line.