With 47.3 seconds remaining, Delphi coach Michael Lewis was confident senior Ricky Windell would extend a one-point Oracles lead to three at the free throw line.
Windell proved his coach’s faith was well placed, and Delphi held on for a 60-55 victory over Sheridan in the opening round of the Class 2A Delphi Sectional on Tuesday night.
“That’s a senior who’s earned the right to make those shots,” Lewis said. “He’s put in the work, and I was very confident.”
Fountain Central also advanced to the semifinals at the free throw line, wrapping up its 59-49 victory over Seeger by making six in the final 73 seconds.
The expected scoring duel between Delphi forward Cole Murray and Sheridan guard Tyler Jones was one reason why this game kept both fan sections on their feet much of the night. Murray finished with a game-high 25 points on just 12 shots.
Jones, averaging 23 points a game, was held to four in the first half, but his 3-point barrage in the second half revived the Blackhawks (13-8) after they fell behind 39-29.
In one third-quarter sequence, Jones hit a 3-pointer, Murray made a 3 then Jones came down and hit another 3. Jones inspired a 13-4 run that drew the Blackhawks within 44-42 early in the fourth quarter.
Another Jones 3-pointer cut Sheridan’s deficit to 47-45. Erik Carpenter and Murray then hit back-to-back 3s, but Jones scored six of the next eight for Sheridan to make it 56-55 with 1:41 to play.
With only three team fouls at that point, the Blackhawks used up 54 seconds before finally putting Delphi in the 1-and-1. Windell’s free throws never touched the rim, and the Oracles moved on to a semifinal matchup with Clinton Central.
Jones finished with 21 points for Sheridan.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” Lewis said. “I thought our kids had great composure tonight.”
Carpenter added 12 points for Delphi (17-5).
In the opener, Fountain Central built nine-point leads on three separate occasions, but Seeger refused to back down. The Patriots only led 2-0 and 30-28 late in the second quarter, but their constant dribble penetration forced Fountain Central coach Jason Good to resort to defensive trickery — a 2-3 zone.
“We haven’t played 10 possessions of zone the whole season,” Good said. “We were getting beat off the dribble so many times.”
The zone was most effective in the fourth quarter after Seeger made one final charge to pull within 45-41. The Patriots were unable to attack the basket and were held to one more field goal until the final 20 seconds.
“Usually, we’re so good at man defense we don’t have to play zone, but we know how to play it,” said Fountain Central senior guard Luke Davenport, who scored 14 points. “When things weren’t working for us on the man defense, coach said, ‘Let’s go to zone defense and see what happens.’ We started working more as a team, and we started playing together.”
Sophomore Koby Pierce led the Mustangs (17-4) with 15 points, but classmate Ethan Woodrow was held to four points, 13 below his average. Good said it was the first time this season Woodrow was held under double figures.
It also was the first time this season Woodrow led the Mustangs in assists.
“The nice thing about this game … there will be people that think I’d be disappointed, but the truth is he did a good job,” Good said. “He probably thinks he didn’t play very well, but I think he did.”
Nathan DeVillez led all scorers with 17 points for Seeger, which finishes 12-9.