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Concordia Lutheran senior D.J. McCall hadn't hit a three all night long.
He picked a great time to finally hit his first: the fourth quarter against Garrett on Tuesday night in the first round of the Class 3A New Haven boys basketball sectional.
After Garrett stormed back from 20 points down to take the lead, McCall drained a three from the right side to put the Cadets back ahead by a point.
“I took a couple threes throughout the game that were rushed,” McCall said. “Reggie (Tharp) threw me a great pass. It just felt in rhythm and right when I let it go I felt really good about it. I think it gave us some momentum.”
His three-pointer did change the momentum in Concordia's favor as it was part of a 9-2 run that the team used in the final two minutes to beat Garrett 57-54.
Garrett's defensive plan for McCall was to take away his ability to drive and force him to shoot outside. The irony was the Railroaders got him where they wanted, but he still came through.
“We thought McCall was better either posting up or driving,” Garrett coach John Bodey said. “So we stayed back and said he's going to have to beat us with the three. And he hit a three to beat us.”
McCall's clutch three with 1:31 to play was key for Concordia (8-12) not only in grabbing the lead, but also in responding to Garrett's furious second-half run. The Railroaders (14-8) trailed by 20 points in the first half at 29-9 but had a 24-point swing after two foul shots and a three-pointer by junior Jared Estep put his team up four with just under three minutes to play.
Concordia's Tharp converted a layup in traffic, then assisted McCall on his three to put the Cadets back in the lead. Justin McCoy made two foul shots to return the lead briefly to Garrett before Paxton Bergdoll's putback gave Concordia the advantage again.
Garrett wouldn't score another point as Concordia held on.
“D.J. is a kid that in his career has made a lot of big shots,” Concordia coach Josh Eggold said. “He's got a lot of confidence in his abilities, and that was a really big shot for us.”
After shooting a poor 26 percent (5 of 19) in the first half as a team and trailing 33-16, Garrett got a spark from Tommy Reneau to start the third quarter and set the tone for the half. He scored the half's opening bucket and by the end of the quarter the Railroaders had cut the Cadets' lead to five points.
“The energy Tommy showed in the start third quarter, the kids responded with that,” Bodey said. “It looked fun to them and they thought 'We're all going to do this.'”
Bergdoll, who had missed several weeks with a fractured left wrist, got major minutes against Garrett. He was in the starting lineup and scored nine points but was limited by foul trouble in the first half.
His return made an impact on Concordia's lineup as McCall was able to move back to the 4 position and spread the floor on the wings.
“He's still rusty with finishing a little bit,” Eggold said. “I think the more we play the better he's going to get.”
McCall finished with a game-high 25 points as Concordia moves onto play host New Haven in the second round.
Tharp added 13 for the Cadets. McCoy led Garrett with 21 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Big man Matt Singleton added 11 points. All of Estep's eight points came in the second half.
Led by McCall as the team's only senior, the younger Concordia players got a taste of the momentum swings that come in tournament basketball.
But Concordia has been used to the close games this season in losing eight games by fewer than 10 points.
On Tuesday night, Eggold said it was just a matter of finding a way to finally win the close ones.
Concordia Lutheran 57, Garrett 54
Garrett 7 9 19 19 – 54
Concordia 19 14 8 16 – 57
Garrett: McCoy 21, Singleton 11, Estep 8, Reneau 6, K Cooper 5, M Cooper 3.
Concordia: McCall 25, Tharp 13, Bergdoll 9, Paradine 5, A Brown 3, Edwards 2.