GLADSTONE - The Gladstone and Gwinn boys basketball teams took turns gaining the upper hand in a non-conference basketball game Tuesday.
It was Gladstone which seized the momentum at crunch time, however, earning a 60-55 triumph over the third-ranked Modeltowners on Parents' Night.
The contest was tied at 55 with 26 seconds left to play.
Owen DeVooght of Gwinn goes up for a shot as Gladstone’s Blake Ballard defends during the third quarter on Tuesday at Gladstone. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Holly Richer)
Junior forward Jared Hunter then sank a five-foot jump shot to give the Braves a 57-55 lead.
"We spread the floor nicely, got an open shot and Jared made it," said Braves' coach Phil Greibel. "I debated about calling a timeout, but decided go with the flow. Sometimes it's easier to get a bucket in the flow rather than taking a timeout and setting up a play."
Senior guard Michael Cretens added a pair of free throws with 13.9 seconds remaining and senior center Jared Vuksan cashed in from the line with 5.5 seconds left.
"Mike always wants to step up to the line when we need big free throws," said Greibel. "The kids showed a lot of character. We felt embarrassed by the way we played Friday night (in a 64-34 loss to Kingsford). We practiced for that game a long time, but simply didn't play well. I think that motivated our kids tonight. We needed this win."
Gwinn led 44-33 midway through the third quarter. The Braves then went on a 7-0 run, climbing within 44-40 on a reverse layup by senior guard Kyle Kleiman.
Neither team scored in the final two minutes, 34 seconds of the third stanza.
Cretens then swished a 21-foot jumper from the left wing to pull the Braves within 44-43 just 17 seconds into the fourth.
"That 3-pointer by Mike was big," said Greibel. "If we don't score there and they go down score on the other end, the momentum swings their way. It's hard when teams go as long without scoring as we did in the end of the third period. We were trying to run some sets, but kept turning the ball over. We were just trying to find a way to score."
Hunter gave the Braves a 45-44 lead on a layup at 6:48 and senior guard Blake Ballard made it 47-44 on jumper from the boulevard 48 seconds later.
Gladstone (6-3) led 53-48 midway through the fourth frame, but the Modeltowners rallied to tie the count at 55 on a free throw by senior guard Derek Reetz with 59.4 seconds left to play.
"Once we tied it, we felt we had things going our way," said Gwinn coach Darren Sinnaeve. "We're a young team. We need to find a way to pull out the tight games and put people away when we have them down, although, I'm happy we didn't settle for 3-point shots. We got some good looks inside. We just didn't finish."
The Modeltowners (6-3) grabbed an early 7-1 lead. The Braves, however, went ahead 12-11 on Cretens' 20-foot jumper from the left wing with 25 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Gladstone extended its cushion to 23-15 on a layup by Vuksan three minutes into the second.
Gwinn then rallied through the remainder of the period, gaining a 33-27 halftime advantage on a buzzer-beating 28-foot set shot by Reetz.
"I think our pressure finally got to them a little," said Sinnaeve. "Once we had the lead, we shot pretty well. Once they got the lead, we started pressing to make shots."
Cretens led the Braves with 18 points and nine rebounds. Ballard finished with 12 and Hunter had 10.
Junior forward Owen DeVooght scored 14 points for Gwinn. Reetz and junior forward Justin Nyquist had 10 apiece.
Gladstone held a 36-26 rebounding advantage, hit 21-of-46 field goals and committed 19 turnovers. The Modeltowners were 21-of-63 from the field and had 22 miscues.