The record will show White Pigeon as the winner and Centreville the loser after Friday’s memorable St. Joseph Valley League boys basketball tilt. Basketball fans from both communities, however, were all winners.
It took three overtimes for the host Chiefs to pull out a 55-54 victory in triple overtime— a game that featured more twists and turns than an amusement park ride.
“It was like a big prize fight where people were just punching each other, getting knocked down, picking themselves up and coming back at it and knocking the other guy down,” White Pigeon coach Tony Cholometes said. “Both communities, I think, were treated to a very hard fought, gritty basketball game. It was one of those that I think was kind of sloppy at times, but the kids exhibited great effort.
“I was very proud of our kids’ effort. I was equally proud of [Centreville] Coach [Corey] Smith and his kids’ effort. That game at any point in time could have gone the other way.”
White Pigeon led by as many as eight points in the third quarter before Bulldogs coach Corey Smith called timeout to settle his boys down. His message was absorbed and the plan executed, with turnovers creating some quick scores that helped close the gap.
Centreville also juggled man-to-man, 1-3-1 zone and trap defenses to hold White Pigeon to just four points in the fourth quarter.
“We kept scrapping, got a couple good looks at the basket and our shots finally started falling,” Smith said. “Before I knew it the game was tied and we were going to overtime.”
But the game was nearly decided in regulation. White Pigeon’s Mitchell Moore, who scored a game-high 22 points, traveled the length of the floor in the final seconds and hoisted a soft bank shot that started to fall but rimmed out.
“My team executed the play to perfection and I was ready, but it just didn’t fall,” Moore said. “Sometimes it’s like that.”
“At the end of the first overtime, we had free throws — one-and-ones to ice it — and we didn’t it,” Chiefs coach Tony Cholometes said. “[Centreville] came down and made shots to tie it up.”
It was a similar story in the second OT, but White Pigeon made enough shots in the third to end a long night on a high note.
“Taking off my coaching hat and putting on a spectator’s hat, I would have to say collectively for both teams I was pretty proud of the effort they gave,” Cholometes said. “It was fun to be a part of that. It was nice to get a win; we’ve been struggling all year long. I think from a team standpoint, this game was probably our best so far as a collective effort in terms of everybody focusing, everybody playing hard and everybody having the same sense of urgency and purpose with their play.”
Moore finished with 12 rebounds, an assist, six steals and a block. It was an experience he won’t soon forget.
“It’s always fun and exciting playing in close games, especially when the stands were as full as they were last night,” he said. “It was a fun time. We fed off each other, and hopefully we’ll build of this and get some more team wins.”
The Chiefs, which shot 11-of-23 from the free-throw line and 4-of-14 from 3-point land, improved to 3-7 overall and 2-1 in the SJV.
Dylan Hochstetler posted 12 points, six boards and two assists for White Pigeon, with Mick Crowl and Riley Olsen finishing with eight and seven, respectively. Olsen added five boards and Crowl had four. David Miller Contributed four points and five rebounds and Blake Groves tallied two points and four rebounds.
“It was fun,” Olsen said. “The game had so much intensity. It felt like the true definition of a Friday night basketball game. The student sections were loud, the crowd was into it and it was just a blast. Going into OT our coaches talked about how everything is magnified in those four minutes. That really was how it felt; every pass, free throw, and play mattered.”
Matt Clementz scored 19 points and DeMarco Taylor registered 15 for the Bulldogs, which lost a double-overtime game to Union City Wednesday. Eli Schwartz and Chase Labarre both recorded six points, Jon Peckinpaugh scored four, Kalvin Ludwig added three and Alex Stafford chipped in one.
Centreville is now 4-7 overall and 1-2 in the SJV.
“It was tough,” Clementz said. “Our shots weren’t falling but we were really stepping up to the plate on defense and created some turnovers that kept us in it. Defensively, I’d say it was one of our best games, and offensively we just couldn’t seem to hit much.”
“It was very exciting and one of the games I will never forget,” Taylor added. “Both teams came out and fought hard; we just came up short. “We just have to keep working hard and good things will come.”
Centreville also turned the ball over a season-low eight times.
“Just trying to get over this hump,” Smith said. “We’re there, but we just can’t take that leap to get to the finish line. But give credit to White Pigeon; they did exactly what they needed to do.”