Eisenhower may not have been expecting such a tight game after thumping rival Goddard by 20 a month ago.
The state’s top-ranked 5A team may not have even been expecting it when Dylan Vincent hit a pair of free throws to put the Tigers up by 12 with just 79 seconds to play.
But a scrappy bunch from Goddard that would never go away pushed Eisenhower until the final horn blew and the Tigers held on for a 60-57 victory.
“I was really proud of our kids for not giving up,” Goddard coach Kyle Taylor said. “I’m proud of the way they responded and got us back in it. They gave us a chance at the end, we just came up a second or two short.”
Those seconds came just before the officials whistled for a jump ball, which gave Goddard’s Jeremiah Crawford a steal to cap a wild 7-0 run over the final 28 seconds.
Eisenhower converted on 9-of-12 free throws in the final two minutes, but the Lions kept coming. Crawford started it with a stick-back after the Tigers stretched it to 12, Pel Okeowo drilled a three-pointer, and Ian McSwain buried a tricky three after ducking under a defender to make it a seven-point game with 18 seconds left.
That’s when Eisenhower turned over the inbounds pass with a foul, saw Goddard convert the free throws, turned over the next inbounds pass that finished with another Crawford putback, and then barely hung on as a deep inbounds pass finished in a jump ball and a turnover, but no time left.
“We started off pretty well, but then we got a little bit loose,” Eisenhower coach Steve Blue said. “This was a physical game. Our guys can handle physical, but they’re sore, they took a beating tonight. If we make our free throws down the stretch and make shots that we’ve been hitting, we don’t let it get close like that.”
The final comeback attempt was the most dramatic, but it was one of many for Goddard. Eisenhower led for the entire game after netting the first basket six seconds in, but despite going up by double digits six times, they couldn’t quite finish off the Lions, and ended up in their tightest game in over a month.
“This game wasn’t quite free-flowing,” Blue said. “Every time we got out and tried to run, we got bumped, got pushed. It was physical. But it showed us we can play in the halfcourt. They definitely made it a little bit ugly, but that’s going to happen. Tonight was about getting a win, and that’s one more step toward our goals.”
McSwain finished with a game-high 19 points, while Crawford provided an efficient 15 points, four steals, three rebounds and a block. Vincent led Eisenhower with 17 points and six assists, with Matt Pile putting up a big night on the glass, grabbing 17 rebounds to go with 14 points.
EISENHOWER: D. Vincent 17, Bush 10, King 8, Wake 6, Pile 14, J. Vincent 5.
GODDARD: McSwain 19, Patterson 2, Johnson 3, B. Mocaby 9, Crawford 15, Okeowo 5, Winter 2, Morrow 2.