STUARTS DRAFT – Double-digit deficits don’t seem to be a problem for the Stuarts Draft boys’ basketball team this season.
The Cougars made it two come-from-behind victories in two nights, rallying for a 73-71 victory over Fort Defiance on Tuesday night.
After getting a late start due to the playoff run of the football team, Draft opened on Monday by overcoming a 20-point second half margin in a win against Covington on Monday. Against the Indians, the Cougars came from 11 back to move to 2-0 on the year.
“I wish it was a little easier than that, but it was a great job of battling back the second night in a row,” said Stuarts Draft head coach Mike Gale. “We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re going to improve so much day-to-day and week-to-week. I’m excited about what our future holds.”
In the first half, it was Fort overcoming a slow start. Trailing 18-14, the Indians went on a 19-4 run to take a 33-22 advantage with 5:01 remaining in the second quarter. Josh Whelan had seven points in that stretch.
The Cougars took advantage of Fort Defiance fouls and pulled to within 39-35 at the break. Draft connected on 9-of-13 free throws over the final 4:47 to get back in the game.
In the third, it was the Cougar defense that turned the tide. Eight Indian turnovers were converted into nine points, leaving Stuarts Draft with a 57-53 cushion.
The lead grew to eight on a Carson Peck 3-pointer early in the fourth before Fort Defiance mounted a charge. The Indians would answer with 10 in a row, culminated by a Jacob Jones bucket that put Fort back up 67-65.
Dalton McGann’s runner and a John Gumann layup got Draft back ahead for good at 69-67. But the lead was anything but safe.
A pair of defensive plays by JonPaul Rader helped Stuarts Draft maintain the advantage. In the final 32 seconds, Rader drew a charge and made a steal to thwart Indian possessions.
Fort would have one last chance. Trailing 73-71 with 0:12 to play, the Indians got the ball back after a missed Cougar free throw. While trying to set up a final shot, Peck deflected a pass into the back court. As both teams scrambled for the loose ball, the clock ran out and Stuarts Draft got the win.
“We did enough there at the end,” said Gale. “We got our hands on some balls. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but it’s coming around.”
Whelan had 17 points and Gabriel Glover added 16 for Fort Defiance (2-2). Jones chipped in 10 in the loss.
Stuarts Draft had four players in double-figures. Rader led the way with 13, followed by Peck with 12, Antonio Ruiz-Haynes with 11 and Gumann with 10.
The JV game also went down to the wire, as the Cougars escaped with a 51-48 win. Dylan Dunnivan of Draft led all scorers with 16. Clayton Kershner pace Fort with 15.