Experience paid big dividends for Indian Creek Friday night.
The senior-laden Redskins delivered clutch play after clutch play down the stretch en route to a thrilling 64-60 road triumph over a game but youthful Martins Ferry quint.
The win was the ninth in 12 starts for veteran coach Joe Dunlevy, whose charges were coming off a last-second loss to powerful Dover.
The Purple Riders, who played two frosh and two sophomores at times, dropped to 5-4 despite playing their best game of the campaign. Coach Jeff Sabatino's gritty cagers visit Edison Tuesday, a team they bested in their opener.
"We had the lead with 1:30 to play. But we hurt ourselves by missing a layup and the front end of two one-and-ones," Sabatino said. "Indian Creek, meanwhile, made nine straight free throws down the stretch by role players.
"But Creek had a lot of experienced and battle-tested players on the floor, while we had some real young players out there. Plus (Tyler) Strama fouling out hurt us," he continued. "Give Creek credit. They made the plays when they needed to."
The loss spoiled another brilliant effort by Martins Ferry ace Cody Schau. The 6 ft. 3 leaper knocked down a game-high 29 points, 11 coming in the final period. Junior Robert Vargo was strong support with 18 lightings.
"Ferry is a load. They have size and a super player in Schau, and they are always so well-coached," Dunlevy said. "A big key was when the game was on the line we had seniors on the floor and Ferry has much younger kids out there."
Dunlevy coached the game with a heavy heart, as his mother died Thursday in Columbus. She was 92. He arrived Friday just prior to tipoff.
"Ferry played extremely well and our kids made enough plays to pull it out," Dunlevy said. "But I must credit my staff. They carried me tonight."
Senior standout Alex Young was his usual sparkling self for the Redskins. The athletic 6 ft. 2 senior poured in 23 points, 11 coming in the third quarter. Sweet-shooting southpaw Frankie Kamarec delivered excellent support with 14 tallies while Matt Furda added nine markers.
Creek led the entire first half, owning a 17-14 edge after one quarter and a 28-22 halftime advantage.
Ferry emerged energized after intermission, cutting the margin to two late in the third quarter before Creek escaped with a 44-39 lead entering the fourth.
Back-to-back buckets by Schau and 6 ft. 8 frosh Emilio Appolloni brought Ferry to within 44-43. Young countered with a hoop before Vargo delivered two success buckets off feeds from sophomore Jake Barritt, staking the Riders to a 47-46 lead with just over five minutes to play.
Ferry continued its fine play and after Schau scored off another Barritt dish, the hosts found themselves holding a 54-49 advantage with 3:20 remaining.
Kamarec drained a trey, drawing Creek to within two. The next three Purple possessions came up dry, missing the front-end of two one-and ones combined with a turnover. In the interim, Creek was going to work at the foul line, punctuated by two Furda freebies with 55 ticks left for a 59-54 Creek advantage.
Schau quickly went the distance for a layup before Blake Roar meshed two more free throws with 33.8 showing. Schau again drove for a layup, only to have Furda drain two more free throws with 20 seconds showing for a 63-58 Redskins' lead.
Barritt goaled for the hosts before Kamarec iced it at the line with 3.4 seconds left.
"We played much better defense in the second half than we did in the first. We did not execute our game plan at the outset. But I am proud of how our kids battled back and put themselves in position to win," Sabatino said. "I have a lot of love and respect for Coach Joe Dunlevy. He did a super job under the toughest of circumstances tonight."
Indian Creek won the reserve contest, 36-32.
INDIAN CREEK (64) - Young 10, 3-4 23; Kamarec 5, 1-4 14; Roar 2, 4-5 8; Furda 2, 4-4 9; Haught 1, 0-0 3; Sullivan 0, 2-2 2. Winland 1, 3-4 5. Totals 21, 17-23. MARTINS FERRY (60) - Schau 12, 5-8 29; Strama 1, 2-2 4; Vargo 7, 4-5 18; Appolloni 2, 1-2 5; Barritt 1, 0-0 2 Sears 0, 0-0 0; Burress 1, 0-0 2. Totals 24, 12-17.
Three-point goals - Indian Creek (5), Kamarec (3), Furda (1), Haught (1); Martins Ferry - none.