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Apache boys slip past Eastbrook

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

WABASH – While fans who piled into Coolman Gymnasium expecting a basketball game on Tuesday night, what played out was something resembling a track meet.

With Wabash and Eastbrook’s boys’ basketball teams more than comfortable playing up-tempo basketball, an up-and-down battle saw the Panther duo of Capone Johnson and Ryan Mansbarger combine for 56 points.

But it was Wabash’s Trenton Daughtry who got the last laugh.

Daughtry scored the final five points for the Apaches, all at the free throw line in the final 15 seconds while adding a key late steal to help the Apaches earn a come-from-behind victory, 73-70.

“Well we knew it was going to be a track meet because both teams like to get up and down,” Wabash head coach Paul Wright said. “I was pleased (because) we had foul trouble this year that we had not had this and I thought every player who played did a great job. We had a lot of guys step up tonight. I thought Jared Holley played great off the bench for us, guarding multiple different types of players.

“That’s the biggest thing. This time of year, the games are going to be close, all of (the games) coming up plus the sectional. It’s nice to pull through and get one of these close ones and get some confidence going into the sectional.”

Forced to the bench for the majority of the second half due to foul trouble, Daughtry checked in for the final 3:45 of the contest and made his presence known immediately.

The sophomore guard knocked down a mid-range jumper less than 20 seconds after coming back onto the court to give the Apaches a 65-64 lead, their first lead of the second half.

Mansbarger and Johnson responded, though, as each hit a pair of free throws to push the Panthers’ lead to 68-65. With a chance to go up five in the closing 40 seconds, Mansbarger’s lay-up rolled around the rim and out, falling into the hands of Logan Vander Velden.

Wabash immediately pushed the ball upcourt as Vander Velden found Dereck Vogel in the corner for the game-tying three-poitner with 34.8 seconds left.

After Eastbrook’s go-ahead three-point attempt missed, Daughtry would race into the lane and draw a foul with 15.1 seconds left. The sophomore knocked down both free throws to give the hosts a 70-68 advantage.

His biggest play of the night though came on the in-bound. After an Apache timeout, Eastbrook in-bounded the ball to Johnson, who was trapped from behind by Daughtry with the Wabash guard coming away with the ball in the backcourt.

The Panthers would foul Daughtry with 10.2 seconds left and the sophomore calmly sank two more free throws to make it a two-possession game at 72-68.

“I’m not surprised. He’s a very good player,” Wright said of Daughtry. “That’s his instincts. We didn’t tell him to go trap that. He just…knocked the ball from behind, got a big steal and got fouled. He’s played a lot of basketball and he’s working and it’s showing. I’m glad he’s only a sophomore.”

Johnson would convert a layup at the other end with 4.5 seconds left and Daughtry would head back to the line with 2.3 left. This time, the sophomore faltered splitting the pair and leaving the door open for Eastbrook. The Panthers nearly pulled off the comeback as Johnson’s half-court heave at the buzzer hit off the backboard before careening off the front rim and out.

“They executed down the stretch and we didn’t,” Eastbrook head coach Brian Childs said. “That’s kind of what it boils down to. We made some free throws, but we had a couple costly turnovers. They made a couple big shots. We had an opportunity to stretch it back to five and we missed the layup. A point blank layup and then they go down and Vogel hits the three and it’s anybody’s game again. We had chances to put it away and we just didn’t do it.”

Mansbarger and Johnson scored all 13 points for Eastbrook in the fourth and all but two of the team’s 31 second-half points as the duo carried Eastbrook for much of the night.

Mansbarger did the heavy lifting in the first half, pouring in 19 points with Johnson seeing limited time due to foul trouble.

But the second half belonged to Johnson as he scored the opening nine points for Eastbrook out of the locker room, drawing a foul on Daughtry and converting the and-one with 4:28 to go in the third to put Eastbrook ahead 48-43.

“When Capone plays well, we play well,” Childs said. “We give Capone a lot of responsibility. We put the ball in his hands and let him create. Not just in the fourth quarter, but really throughout the entire game. He’s what makes us go. He gets other guys open shots. I thought he did a real good job tonight. They were staying at home on Conner (Childs) tonight, staying at home with our shooters, staying at home with Ryan and he did a good job of penetrating and creating for himself tonight.”

With Daughtry relegated to the bench, Eastbrook initially pushed the lead to nine points, but Wabash eventually closed the margin down to three heading into the fourth.

Vander Velden’s and-one to start the fourth tied the game and Eastbrook’s lead never reached more than four points the rest of the night.

Daughtry finished with 25 points to lead Wabash as they ensured their first 10-win season since 1999. The Apaches are two wins away from securing their first winning season 1994.

Johnson finished with 20 second-half points and 26 total on the night while Mansbarger led all scorers with 30 points, 19 of those coming in the first half.

Eastbrook falls to 9-9 with the loss.