Homestead had to play all 32 minutes - every second of it - to earn a win over Jay County in the IHSAA Class 4A Boy's Basketball Sectional at Huntington North on Friday.
Here were five keys to the Spartans' victory:
1. Gamble's heroics
Most players dream of hitting just one buzzer beater. Gamble now has three in high school after last night. His approach on the last play made it seem like he knew it was going in, which, talking to him after the game, he did. Gamble walked, repeat: walked, the ball up the court despite there only being 11.6 seconds remaining. He then took a few dribbles. He waved his teammates off and then pulled up and sank a huge postseason shot. What was remarkable is how he never seemed rushed or hurried the entire time, but calm and collected. Makes sense a player expecting to make the shot with no nerves in that situation is one to repeatedly come through.
2. Free throws:
In a game that's 48-45 and quarter scores that read two, seven, eight and nine points for teams, any free throw is critical. The Spartans dominated that category in this game, shooting 12 more free throws and scoring 10 more points from the charity stripe than Jay County.
3. Inside play in the second half
Homestead shot 10 of its 16 shots in the first half from 3-point range and only hit three. It was a complete switch in the second half, where they took 14 of 16 shots inside the arc and was a huge difference. After scoring only 17 points total in the first half, Homestead put up nearly double that with 31. This also helped to get Jay County's big men in foul trouble, opening up the lane for Nick Gamble to drive and Caleb Swanigan to take control.
4. Adjusting its style
The Spartans scored 18 points below their average and this was in large part because of Jay County's defense and pace. The Patriots worked the clock and slowed the game down, but Homestead adjusted to this by staying focused on defense and not forcing the issue offensively. A lot of teams struggle to change their style when its needed, but Homestead was just fine with it.
5. Second-chance points:
Once again, a close game means anything like this is critical. Homestead had 10 second-chance points to Jay County’s four. This may not seem big, but a six-point difference in a close game like this is huge. Homestead was able to get and take advantage of their offensive rebound opportunities; something Jay County was able to pull off.