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Altamont pulls away late in wild one with Vandals

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Game features 51 fouls, two technicals, two ejections; four foul out

By Seth Whitehead

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It was a game that had many fans on the edge of their seats - and some on the verge of arrest.

Fifty-one fouls, 71 free throws, two technicals and two ejections later, Altamont managed to repel the Vandalia boys basketball team's second valiant upset attempt in as many weeks, rallying for a 75-63 victory Saturday at VCHS.

Fourteen days removed from a win over the Vandals in which a late run broke up a fourth-quarter tie, the Indians (13-1) took control for good this time with a third-quarter run that left most Vandals supporters stunned - and some downright furious.

VCHS appeared to be in prime position for an upset nearing the midway point of the third quarter, after a Will Cowger basket gave it a 40-36 lead.

Four Indians were in serious foul trouble at that point, as Greg Sperry had four personals and Kieffer McCarron and Devin Frailey had three apiece. Brian Suckow was whistled for his fourth foul seconds later.

But the momentum swung completely in Altamont's favor with four minutes to go in the frame after Cowger was whistled for his third foul after going for a defensive rebound near VCHS's bench.

Vandals coach Kevin Jackson disputed the call, and was subsequently issued his second technical foul of the game, leading to his automatic ejection.

Chaos ensued, as at least one fan was ejected from the building.

With the Vandals rattled by their coach's sudden departure, the Indians responded with a 16-2 run to close out the quarter, giving them a 54-43 lead they would not relinquish.

Jackson expressed regret about his ejection following the game.

"I hurt us by what occurred," said Jackson, who received his first technical early in the second quarter. "I preach team as much as anyone, and I hurt our team. That can't happen. ...The focus is not me; the focus is the team."

Jackson's ejection coincided with the emergence of Altamont leading scorer Kieffer McCarron from a brief scoring funk.

The Vandals held the senior sharp-shooter to just one first-half point, but McCarron got himself on track with a jumper to start the second half and never slowed down.

He wound up scoring 14 points in the third quarter alone - including 12 points during the Indians' fateful third-quarter run. McCarron finished with 20 of his game-high 21 points in the second half.

Landon Duckwitz, who added 18 points, put Altamont ahead for good with a pair of free throws after Jackson's technical.

The Indians did much of their damage the rest of the quarter with transition baskets, as they were able to dictate a fast-paced tempo that was more to their liking.

"I thought we had several solid performances, and I thought our kids played hard," Jackson said. "Unfortunately, the score was in the 70s and 60s, and it should have been in the 40s or 50s, or both teams in the 40s."

To the Vandals' credit, they continued to battle throughout the final period despite the unfortunate turn of events. Still they could never get Altamont's lead under six points the rest of the way.

The Vandals served notice they would not go quietly, opening the final period with a 7-2 run capped by a Marty Johnson three-point play after he was fouled on a reverse layup, cutting Altamont's lead to 56-50 with five minutes to go.

The Vandals remained within striking distance until Altamont suddenly started making their free throws, as the Indians converted on 10 straight charity attempts from the 3:13 mark to the 1-minute mark, opening up a double-digit lead.

It was an ironic twist of fate for the Vandals, who enjoyed the lead for much of the game, thanks to their ability to get to the line - and convert.

Vandalia hit 16 of 18 from the line in the first half, taking a 28-27 lead into the locker room. The Vandals finished 30 of 36 from the line for the evening (83 percent).

In addition to outstanding free-throw shooting, a blistering start by forward Austin Wollerman had Altamont play ing catch up early on.

Wollerman scored 10 of his 16 points and pulled down four of his 10 rebounds in the opening quarter, scoring twice on fast breaks off steals.

Drew Bell added four of his team-high 19 points in the opening frame - including a shot in the lane to close the period that had VCHS enjoying a 14-10 lead.

Solid play by Quinn Phillips off the bench helped the Vandals extend its lead to as many as seven points in the second quarter, as the 6-foot-7 senior scored three points, grabbed three rebounds and took a pair of charges in the frame.

But Altamont finished with a flurry just before halftime, and a Suckow 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining cut Vandalia's lead to just one.

"...It seemed like we ought to be up more than one (at half), but they hit a couple big shots," Jackson said. "And, doggone, I don't know if we hit a shot. We made a ton of free throws."

The Vandals never really got things going from the field, finishing 16 of 51 from the floor (31 percent), including 1 of 16 shooting from three-point range.

In addition to his 19 points, Bell had four rebounds, two steals and two assists. He was 10 of 11 from the free-throw line.

Cowger added 11 points before fouling out with about three minutes to go. Johnson fouled out moments later, contributing to a final score that did not indicate how hotly contested the game was.

"I'm proud of my kids," Jackson said. "I thought they fought hard and they didn't quit. They battled. They went in with a game plan and I thought they executed it.

"I'm proud of their effort; they fight every night."

Altamont came out on top despite hitting just 22 of its 35 free throws and committing 26 fouls.

The Indians also won the junior varsity game, 56-37.

Daniel Bell had 14 points in the setback, while Dathan Berning and Matt Hoffman added eight points apiece.