Fenton Overcomes 20-Point Deficit to Beat Swartz Creek
Tigers miss 22 of first 23 shots, but rally to beat Swartz Creek 59-50.
Playing in front of a loud crowd in Swartz Creek's gym, the Fenton basketball team tried to avoid letting the Dragons sneak up and possibly share the Metro League title for a second straight season.
Things didn't start well.
Swartz Creek's pressing defense forced a few early turnovers and Fenton's shooters couldn't find the mark in the early going, missing 22 of their first 23 shots as Swartz Creek surged to a 24-4 lead to open the game.
Fenton coach Tim Olszewski didn't panic.
"I looked at (assistant coaches) Eric Senter and Steve Barlow, and I said, 'We're gonna be alright,'" Olszewski said. "I didn't see it as they (Swartz Creek) were killing us, we were killing ourselves."
Fenton chipped away at the lead in the second quarter and got some energy from bench players, including Devan Beagle and Damon Thomas.
"My role is as a defensive player, so I tried to come in, play good D and pump up my teammates," said Thomas, who scored three points.
Swartz Creek went into the half trailing by 15. Once again, Olszewski delivered a message at the half that the team simply had to play within themselves.
"I said, 'Fellas, if you would just take a breath and power the ball up, attack the basket and put pressure on them, we'll slowly work our way back,'" Olszewski said.
Olszewski told the team that he'd like them to have the lead down to six by the end of the third quarter, and Fenton immediately went to work doing it, using their length to get deflections in passing lanes.
When Swartz Creek's starting guards and two best ball-handlers, Max Cummings and Jarod Jones, got into foul trouble early in the quarter, Fenton's pressure was even more effective. The Tigers forced 14 turnovers in the quarter, and Fenton got to within four before Swartz Creek pushed the lead back up to seven at the end of the quarter.
Swartz Creek coach Jeremy Trent was forced to go back to Jones and Cummings early in the fourth even though both had four fouls, and within minutes, both had fouled out.
Fenton forced eight more turnovers in the fourth (and 32 for the game) while holding Swartz Creek's Logan Hull to just one basket in the second half after he scored 13 first half points. A basket by Beagle tied the game and Ryan Hickoff, who scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth, put Fenton up for good just seconds later with a jumper after a steal.
A 3-point play by Hickoff just seconds later pushed the lead to five, and Fenton sealed it by hitting free throws down the stretch. Dylan Hickoff scored 16, Conor Muntin had nine and Eric Mowery scored seven for Fenton.
The team can now clinch the league title outright with a win over Brandon Wednesday. A loss would still allow Holly a chance at sharing the title. Swartz Creek beat Fenton by 12 in Fenton earlier this season.
"We talked about how the heart's gonna have to be there, how we're gonna have to out-work Creek, and I think we did," said Conor Muntin, who scored nine points. "We out-toughed them in the second half."