BRAZIL — Long road trips to play tough non-conference opponents will always pay off in the long-run. And Crawfordsville certainly became a better basketball team on Saturday night following their snowy trip to Northview, but the reality is the Athenians let one get away in a 67-61 overtime loss to the Knights.
Ian Hensley gave Crawfordsville a 1-0 lead with a free throw just 62 seconds into the game, a lead they didn’t relinquish until the final minute of regulation, when Caleb Swearingen tied the game at 55-55 for the Knights with 1:07 to play. Northview never led until Swearingen scored to open the overtime period.
The Athenians (7-3) missed a 1-1 free throw opportunity at the end of regulation, setting up an overtime period that was dominated by the Knights. Northview was perfect shooting the ball in the overtime period — 2-of-2 from the field and 8-of-8 from the line, while Crawfordsville was just 3-of-8 on field goals.
Swearingen, an Olivet Nazarene commit, led all scorers with 27 points. Drew Cook knocked down 5-of-10 3-pointers for the Knights and added 19, while Brevin Cooper scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Crawfordsville led 37-29 at the half, and built a 46-34 lead with 4:30 to play in the third quarter, but back-to-back 3-pointers from Cook and a turn up in defensive pressure sparked an 8-0 Knights run to close the period.
“When the pressure came on. They picked up their defense a little bit at that point and you could just tell by the guys’ body language and demeanor,” Crawfordsville coach David Pierce said. “They started playing on their heels with the pressure. And that’s where we have to get better. At the point guard position we have to find a way to calm everybody. Handle pressure, create space and get us into an offense.”
After just one first half turnover, Crawfordsville had three right in a row in the third quarter. The Athenians were 14-of-31 shooting in the first half, but connected on just 10 second half field goals on 27 shots, and made just one 3-pointer. For the game the Athenians were just 5-of-20 from beyond the arc, while Northview was 9-of-17.
Ty Lynas led the Athenians with 17 points, while Jesse Hall added 14 and Hensley 10.
A Lynas bucket made it 48-42 Athenians early in the fourth, but the Knights kept inching closer before Swearingen’s ultimate game-tying basket.
“We lost the game in the fourth,” Pierce said. “I thought we had control most of the way and then they made a run. There’s a lot of different things, but I’m proud of their effort. I thought coming into their place to get a win was going to be really difficult. I thought we played well enough for most of the game to make that happen. Again, I’m pleased. There were selfish reasons to win that game, but I’m really happy with how we got better tonight.”
Crawfordsville has three-straight road games, starting with a trip to Western Boone on Thursday night. And while Pierce was pleased with the effort in the loss, with four conference games remaining, the stakes start to get higher. The Athenians will enter this week winners of five of their last six, but are now just 1-3 in games decided by 10 points or fewer.
“We need to handle pressure better,” Pierce said. “I think the problem is the good teams create a little bit of pressure and we have a lot of one-sport athletes. And they’re not used to that stage. And unfortunately they crack. Whether that’s a bad decision or nervousness. Unfortunately we aren’t handling that pressure well when we need to.”