By Dan Harrison
---- — LYNN — It doesn’t matter the time on the clock or their location on the court, a shooter never hesitates.
After Lynn English’s Brian Redondo missed the back-end of his double-bonus free throw, visiting Beverly grabbed the rebound with just seconds left in the fourth quarter, trailing by a pair.
Like most of the game, it was a scramble. But Beverly was able to get the ball across half court and into Nick Cross’ hands with time for a contested, desperation three-pointer.
All in one motion Cross corralled a tough pass, raised up over his defender and knocked down the game-winning jumper with two seconds left as Beverly escaped with the 74-73 win.
“It felt like I had it,” explained Cross, who hadn’t hit a field goal in the second half before the game-winner. “I was just playing
defense. My team was scoring and then I just had to get it going.”
Panthers (12-5) head coach Scott Lewis was still sorting it all out after the game.
“It was crazy. It all happened so fast I’m not even really sure how it went,” he said. “For Nicky to bang that three-it was a big shot.”
Cross certainly had it going in the first half when he recorded 11 points. But it was big buckets from Jon Berchoff (17 points) in the paint that had Beverly out to an early lead. Lynn English was pressing and trapping all over the court so the Panthers knew to look to the guy right underneath the basket. This strategy worked in the second half too, only it was Zach Duguid (seven points) reaping the benefits.
“We knew they were trapping all over the court so we told (the kids) the guy underneath is going to be open because that’s the last option and they are sagging on everybody,” said Lewis.
However, Berchoff would pick up his second foul early in the second quarter when he stepped in to take the charge but was whistled for a block on a bang-bang play. With Berchoff out, Lynn English gained momentum and the lead, 37-33 at the half.
Going into the second half the Panthers needed another scoring option outside of Cross and Berchoff, who accounted for 31 of Beverly’s 33 first half points. Enter Jonangel Franco, who handled the Bulldog guards and attacked the basket fearlessly.
“He (Franco) was fantastic. He is such a good player and we’ve been saying it all season that he is what makes us go. If he has a great game, we are tough to beat,” said Lewis.
Franco scored all 14 of his points after the break as Beverly built its lead to as many as eight points in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t know if anything changed (from the first half). We didn’t play very well in the first half either. We came out flat and didn’t play the defensive style we play,” said English head coach Mike Carr. “To their (Beverly’s) credit they did a very good job of beating the pressure.”
The pressure did eventually get to the Panthers late in the fourth quarter when some bad turnovers and quick buckets for the Bulldogs turned the table on the game. It was back-and-forth for the last four minutes before English went back on top in the final minute off a Stevie Collins three-pointers.
However guys like Berchoff, Duguid, Franco, Cam Rogers (13 points) and Chris Sinclair (eight points) had been resilient all game for Beverly and Cross rewarded everyone with his late game heroics.