News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

March 4, 2014

Paris knocks off 23-2 Clinton Central in overtime sectional thriller

Riley Spencer paces Tigers with 25 points, nine rebounds

WESTVILLE, ILL. — Paris’ boys basketball team has learned a lot in a late-season run of success, but the one thing that set the Tigers apart on Tuesday in Class 2A Westville Sectional semifinal game was composure.

The Tigers never got rattled, never flinched and got the ultimate reward.

The Tigers defeated Clifton Central 63-60 in an overtime thriller. Red-hot Paris advanced to Friday’s sectional championship game.

In front of a raucous crowd, Paris (20-9) knocked off a Clifton Central team had lost just once previously this season.

But this is nothing new for Paris, who surprised everyone in its regional and had no fear facing a Comets team that had an array of shooters. The Tigers have won 10 out of 11 ... with all of the games decided by 10 points or less.

“We’ve done this for three straight weeks. We know how to win close games down the stretch,” Paris coach Shawn Nugent said. “Our guys know how to win down the stretch.”

Riley Spencer was cool and collected in the paint as he scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Austin Temples added 13 and Jeffrey Martin had 10 points for the Tigers. Justin Lemanger paced Clifton Central (23-2) with 24 points.

“We figured out ways down the stretch in our season to keep our composure. What were we? Down three? [With 5:30 left in the game.] We knew we could score and we knew we could get rebounds,” Spencer said.

The game featured 16 lead changes and eight ties. No team led by more than six points and the largest margin enjoyed by either team after halftime was five.

That was when Clifton Central led 37-32 early in the third quarter, but as it did the entire game, Paris fought back. A 12-4 run by the Tigers put them in front 44-42. Clifton Central led 45-44 at the end of the quarter.

The lead changed hands six times in the fourth quarter alone. An 8-2 Paris run made it 57-54 with 1:40 left, but Lemanger drained an off-balance 3-pointer to tie it with 1:21 left. Jeffrey Martin converted with 1:01 left to put Paris up 59-57, but Lemanger’s free throws six seconds later knotted the game again.

Paris held for the last shot, but Temples was surrounded in the paint and couldn’t get a shot off.

In overtime, Paris relied on its defense. Clifton Central had no openings for its shooters and struggled to get clean post touches. The Comets were 0-for-4 from the field in overtime.

Paris inched ahead on a Spencer bucket at 3:03 and a free throw at 1:24. The Tigers’ lead was 62-60 when Clifton Central’s Logan Podowicz went to the line to potentially tie it with 20.8 seconds left. He missed the front end of a one-and-one, Paris rebounded, and Denver Brewer made a free throw with 4.2 seconds left to put the Tigers up one.

Lemanger’s heave at the buzzer missed the mark.

“We did a good job of covering up on their shooters and knowing where they were,” Nugent said. “Lemanger is a great player. In our scouting report, we called ‘shooter’ when he stepped over the volleyball line. We did a good job of recognizing shooters and I think that was the big difference.”

The first half was no less tense.

Neither team had more than a two-point advantage in the first quarter. Riley Spencer had nine points in the period for Paris, who might have led, if not for five first quarter turnovers. Clifton Central had a slim 17-16 lead at quarters’ end.

Turnovers continued to plague the Tigers and it helped the Comets open a tiny gap. Paris had five more in the second period, including three in the first two minutes, as Clifton Central led 22-16.

But Paris also played good defense against the Comets’ shooters and Clifton Central couldn’t find the mark from the field. Clifton Central was 10 of 35 from the field in the opening half, including 4 of 14 from 3-point range. Paris closed the half on a 6-3 run and trailed just 29-28 at the break. It set the table for an exciting second half and overtime.

As one might Spencer said the Tigers’ belief was sky-high. He gave part of the credit to Paris itself. A sea of orange-and-black clad students stormed the court at the end of the game. Paris’s section at Westville was almost completely full.

“The school spirit we’ve had is huge. The whole school and town is behind us. It feels great,” Spencer said.

Paris will play either Reed-Custer or St. Joseph-Ogden in Friday’s Westville Sectional championship game.

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