NEW PARIS —Dalton Mason grabbed an offensive rebound after a missed a free throw with nine seconds left, and scored an “and one” basket to cap off the Blazers’ first Cross County Conference win of the season with a 56-52 victory over Ansonia on Friday, Jan. 15.
“Great win,” head coach Mike Harrison said as he came out of the locker room. “We’re learning to do all sort of things, one of those things is winning close games. Ansonia is a solid team that is better than their record.”
Mason and front court mate Kaleb Deardorff combined for 34 points, with Deardorff leading the way with 18 points and Mason netting 16. Deardorff also secured 12 rebounds and recorded five assists as he led the Blazers in all three statistics.
“I thought Deardorff’s activity kept us in the game early when they were hitting shots. His activity got us a lot of easy baskets throughout the game, flashing and making nice passes from the high post and creating openings for other people,” Harrison said of his junior big man.
It was a hard-fought game throughout the contest as neither team ever possessed a double digit lead.
The Tigers came out hot early, jumping to an early lead. By the end of the first quarter a long two at the buzzer was needed for the visitors to secure a 15-14 Ansonia lead.
The Tigers jumped out to 25-20 lead before Deardorff scored on a post move and then found Mason for a high-low pass on the following possession to bring the Blazers within one before the half.
The Tigers started the half with a pair of free throws, but for the second quarter in a row Peyton Harrison made a three on the Blazers’ first possession of the half to tie the game at 27.
The visitors then split a pair of free throws and Deardorff once again used a nice pass from the high post to find a cutting Travis Hunt for a layup and one point Blazer lead at 29-28.
Hunt then forced a turnover and Deardorff secured his missed layup for another offensive rebound put-back and a 31-28 lead.
Mason and Hunt each added a bucket in the final minutes of the third period, but Ansonia scored two free throws, two threes and a layup before the final minutes, for 40-35 lead.
In the closing seconds of the quarter the Blazers caught a break as a turnover led to a wide-open Ansonia lay-up that was missed, allowing the home team to stay within five points heading into the final period.
After missing the lay-up at the end of the third, Ansonia went on to miss its first five shots of the fourth quarter. During that span, Hunt found Mason for a basket, and Deardorff scored before finding a cutting Weston Haws, who gave the Blazers a 41-40 lead.
Ansonia finally got on the board when Devyn Sink hit a long three for three of his 18 points in the contest, to give the lead back to the visitors.
Harrison however had an answer, as he fouled in the act of shooting, making the basket and tacking on the free throw for a 44-43 Blazer lead.
Eventually the Blazers extended the lead to 51-44 but the Tigers were unwilling to give up. Sink hit another three and the Tigers scored five straight to get back within two points.
After National Trail missed several opportunities to extend the lead, Sink was fouled by Harrison while shooting a three and went to the line with 15 seconds left for three free throws and his team down two.
Sink missed the first and missed the second but made the third to bring the Tigers to within a single point with 15 seconds to play.
The Blazers in-bounded the ball and the Tigers fouled Haws with 12 seconds left for a one-an-one free throw opportunity. Haws missed the shot but Mason secured the rebound and was fouled on the put-back to secure the Blazers’ victory.
Harrison was pleased with his team’s ability to respond to adversity. “They made their runs and we answered the runs,” he said, adding, “A lot of times we don’t do that, but we continued to fight. It was a game either team could have won but we made the plays down the stretch.”
Harrison also spoke about his freshman point guard, Hunt, who handled the Tigers’ half court pressure in the second half: “Travis has done a great job, as much as we could ever have asked for a kid coming in from eighth grade and really being a calming influence for us.”
As a team, the Blazers out-rebounded the Tigers 33-25 and outscored the Tigers in the paint 30-12. National Trail shot a season-high 56 percent from the field.
National Trail is now 3-9 on the season and 1-5 in the Cross County Conference. They travel to league-leading Tri-Village on Friday, Jan. 22 and host Dixie on Saturday, Jan. 23.
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062, or on Twitter @aschmidt_RH.