Everything was set up for the Chiles boys basketball team to make a huge comeback at North Florida Christian on Tuesday night.
But on make-or-break plays and on make-or-break possessions, the Timberwolves were consistent all game in breaking.
Chiles tried to rally from down 13 to start the fourth quarter, but NFC was the team that made timely plays or capitalized off turnovers. The Eagles’ 57-52 victory lifts them to 7-8 on the year after their fourth win in a row.
“We didn’t pass well enough on target, we didn’t catch well— fumble in the hands and drop, lose an opportunity— or we’d catch it underneath with a chance to score and blow the layup,” Timberwolves coach Todd McNeil said. “They’re real important points in the first half that sure would have been nice to have in the second half.”
NFC picked up a big contribution in the first half from junior forward Mitchell Osterlund— a Chiles transfer— who scored all of his 15 points in a flurry during the first 16 minutes. Osterlund nailed six shots, including three 3-pointers, getting the Eagles off to a quick start and a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“I’d been struggling the past couple games, but I knew my shot was going to come back at some point,” Osterlund said. “It just happened to be against my old team. There’s always some emotion, added focus, and everything just seemed to fall.”
Osterlund had 10 of NFC’s 15 first-quarter points, while holding just a three-point lead. Chiles’ leading scorer Brett Easterling had to hit the bench right before the first quarter ended after picking up a technical foul, and with him watching, the Eagles went on a 10-0 run to start the second quarter.
“He’s got to understand he’s already got one foul, he gets a technical for doing something stupid which is a second personal foul, and now we’re in a little foul trouble,” McNeil said.
“He picked up one more bad one before the half, and that changes things. We had to put him on a weaker offensive player so he wouldn’t get in foul trouble later. He put us in jeopardy because he expressed his opinion poorly.”
Easterling finished with team highs of 13 points, nine rebounds and four steals, but Chiles’ deficit ballooned to 18 in the third quarter.
NFC, meanwhile, saw senior forward Melvin Ray get hot, scoring 10 of his game-high 20 points in the third quarter. Marvin Scott kicked in 10 points for the Eagles, who seemed to have thing under control until the offense went stagnant in the fourth quarter.
“Melvin is back, but we’ve got a young group of kids, so we’re going to be up and down,” first-year NFC coach Rob Cronin said. “These guys are learning and getting some identify though, and that’s exciting to watch. There’s growth off the court, in the locker room, and for us that’s a key component. The other thing is guys being willing to adjust their games to work together.”
Kamari Brown scored 12 points for Chiles (4-10), while Tristen Garcia and Enrique Martinez pitched in 10 each. Yet the Timberwolves, who managed to have possession with a chance to tie on a 3 with two minutes remaining, never got in sync.
Easterling was open on the right wing on three straight fast-break possessions, but he never touched the ball and Chiles turned it over in a logjam.
“We didn’t get it to him,” McNeil said. “We got tunnel vision. If you have the ball, you have to be aware of where he is.”
Easterling cut the lead to one with a floater and 25 second remaining, but NFC ended the game by making four free throws during two one-and-one bonus situations.
“We had been just putting up just 15 points in the first half,” Cronin said. “We had been closing, but not showing up right away. Tonight, we did a good job opening, and we closed it out, so it was good win.”