By Mike Myers
MT. VERNON — MT. VERNON – A furious fourth quarter comeback turned into a fatal final two minutes of play as Washington dropped its Big 8 Conference opener 40-39 at Mt. Vernon on Friday.
After falling behind 37-26 with just under 6:00 to play in the game, Washington (2-4, 0-1) ran off 13 consecutive points against Mt. Vernon (2-3, 2-0). Colton Garland, the Hatchets’ leading scorer on the night with 19 points, started the run with a 3-pointer, followed by another trey from Andy Garland.
Colton Garland dialed long distance again, then added a basket and a pair of free throws, giving WHS a 39-37 lead with 2:34 on the clock.
But unfortunately that would end the scoring for the Hatchets. Mt. Vernon’s Bryce Newman, who led the Wildcats with 17 points, hit one of two free throws with 1:33 left to cut the Hatchet lead to one at 39-38.
After committing 13 turnovers through three quarters, the Hatchets didn't rack up a single miscue in erasing a double-digit deficit during the 13-0 fourth quarter run. But with the game on the line, Washington turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions in a span of :30 seconds. In between Mt. Vernon’s Damon Collins scored to give the Wildcats the lead back at 40-39. Collins was fouled after the second Hatchet turnover but missed the front end of the bonus attempt with :30 to play.
Washington, however, was unable to get a good look at the basket on its final possession, with Andy Garland missing a hurried fall away jumper as time expired on a loss that shouldn’t have been according to Hatchet coach Gene Miiller.
“We just gave another one away, that’s all there is to it. We worked against a 1-3-1 trap every day in practice this week even though they don’t run it very often. I don’t know why they ever got out of it.” Said Miller. “If I was them, I don’t why they ever got out it because every time they ran it we turned the ball over.
“We just won’t ball fake, we won’t do the little things. We don’t go up strong with the ball, we turn the ball over, we throw it right into their hands, unforced turnovers,” said Miiller. “It’s hard to win when you don’t get shots, and there were too many times where we didn’t get shots.”
In particular, Miiller was disappointed with his team’s reluctance to shoot the ball during the Hatchets’ final possession.
“We’re just not very aggressive. On the last play, before the final out of bounds, I think everybody on the team had a chance to shoot the ball and no one would shoot it,” Miiller said of the final possession. Washington ran :25 off the clock before Tyler Stoll went up for a shot in the lane with 5.2 seconds left. But Stoll was fouled on the floor before the shot attempt, only Mt. Vernon’s fourth team foul of the half, resulting in the final in bounds sequence that ended with Garland’s hurried final shot.
“We’re down one and everybody had an opportunity and nobody would take the shot. We acted like we were afraid to take a shot,” said Miiller. “We’ve got guys that are three year and two year players out there, and we just played like a young team, like a team that was playing a bunch of freshman and sophomores instead of juniors and seniors.”
Washington trailed 8-7 after one quarter and fell behind 19-10 midway through the second quarter before rebounding to forge a 19-19 tie at the half. But the Wildcats outscored WHS 12-5 to take a 31-24 lead after three periods of play.
Austin Ghirardelli, Matthew Stephens, and Tyler Stoll each netted five points for WHS, followed by three Andy Garland and two from Jake Bedwell.
Washington claimed the JV game 48-41. Carson Smith topped the Hatchets with 16 points, followed by nine apiece from Matthew Sparks and Reid Neff.
The Hatchets will host Evansville Central tonight.