Defense dominated Andale’s road match up with Collegiate on Tuesday night. But an unlikely offensive burst won it.
Neither team topped 20 points by halftime and they combined for just 11 third-quarter points in Andale’s 36-33 win. Jake Bruna, a role player off the Andale bench, had to save the day for the undefeated and top-ranked team in the 4A-II Coaches Association poll. The junior guard hit a pair of three-pointers a minute apart late in the fourth quarter to fight off a frenzied Collegiate rally.
“We knew they were going to come out and play defense on us, and they played the best pressure defense we’ve seen,” Andale point guard Hunter Knoblauch said. “And then we had (Bruna) come off the bench. He’s a role player that comes in to shoot free throws and plays defense, so that put a smile on my face when he hit those shots.”
The three-pointers, one from each corner with 4:40 and 3:40 to play, were the first real clutch shots needed late in a game for Andale this season. The Indians’ closest previous games were 12-point wins.
“We’ve had some good games before this, but tonight it came down to a matter of finding a way to win,” Andale coach Jeff Buchanan said. “As a coach you like these types of games because you learn a lot about your team.”
The Indians took an early lead with a 13-2 run that ate up a chunk of the first and second quarters. But Collegiate, undefeated before going 0-2 last week, intensified its defensive pressure in the backcourt and climbed back into the game by halftime.
A dismal 9-for-19 free-throw effort kept Andale from pulling away in the second half, along with a Collegiate run led by point guard Xavier Adams. The 5-foot-10 sophomore, who posted a game-high 12 points, scored on three consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter, but the points were matched by Bruna’s big shots.
Kendall Reed’s only bucket of the game was good for a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left that pulled Collegiate to within three points. Andale’s Jason Hermreck missed two free throws on the next possession, setting up Collegiate for a chance to tie.
The Spartans got the look they wanted on the final play, but Reed’s three-point attempt from the top of the key hit the front of the rim as time expired.
The close game may not have ended Collegiate’s losing streak, but it did give head coach Mitch Fiegel some answers about his young squad.
“We have built our reputation and our tradition on our toughness,” he said. “Until tonight I wasn’t sure we had buy-in, but tonight put those fears to rest. Offensive execution we can fix, and with a young group like this the only thing that’s going to fix some things is another six weeks of playing basketball. But hustle, effort and toughness was the question, and tonight we showed significant improvement in all three and for that I’m proud of our guys.”