ANDOVER — When put to the test, the Collegiate boys basketball team discovered the truth to its basic fundamentals of playing the game taught by Mitch Fiegel.
After watching shell-shocked as Andover Central raced to a 19-point lead in the second quarter on Friday night, the Spartans' will was challenged.
"We have to believe in the system," Fiegel told the Spartans. "We have to believe in our depth, we have to believe in our pressure and we have to believe in each other."
Behind those principles, and the help of Central's 20 missed free throws, Collegiate was able to erase the deficit and escape with a 63-60 victory.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
After the game, Collegiate players used assistant coach Ron Watson's favorite phrase —"basketball is a game of runs" — as the explanation.
Certainly, there were runs.
Central throttled the Spartans early for a 31-12 lead behind 22 points from Mark Anderson and Marshall Miller. But Collegiate chipped away, and narrowed the lead to 10 by halftime.
By the start of the second half, the Jaguars were weary from Collegiate's pressure. The Spartans were able to win the quarter 20-9 and take a 44-43 lead into the final quarter.
"We just really wanted to get them out of their halfcourt sets they were running," Collegiate's Doug Burton said. "We had to take out their size advantage, especially on the second wave."
Credit the Spartans' pressure to the 21 Central turnovers, but the Jaguars let them slip back in the game with an 11-for-31 performance from the free-throw line.
"We got a little bit tight," Central coach Jesse Herrmann said. "Everything got tight. Our passes got tight, our dribbles got tight and our free throws got tight."
Miller was actually on the line with a chance to recover the lead with 43 seconds left, but missed both. Blake Jablonski inbounded under Collegiate's basket and hurled a jump ball at midcourt to 6-foot-6 Tre Bailey.
Bailey out-leaped his defender and finished the layup with 12 seconds left.
"We've been doing it for the last four months, so we decided why not give it another shot?" Bailey said of his and Jablonski's connection on the football field, where Collegiate recently won a state championship.
Central found Anderson open for a potential game-tying three-pointer in the corner and his shot bounced three times on the rim, but trickled off.
"That's as good a look as we can get," Herrmann said. "He's going to make that 50 percent of the time."
Jablonski finished with a game-high 19 points to improve Collegiate to 2-0.
"This is a type of game that you don't wish anyone to come away with a loss," Fiegel said.
Collegiate (2-0) 8 16 20 19 — 63 Andover Central (1-1) 22 12 9 17 — 60
COLLEGIATE: Cornejo 15, Fiegel 8, Jablonski 19, LeMaster 7, Bailey 10, Burton 4. Totals 21 (6) 15-20 63.
ANDOVER CENTRAL: Gentry 10, Anderson 11, Vautravers 13, Miller 17, Stiverson 1, Trembly 2, Wilks 3, Lock 3. Totals 21 (7) 11-31 60.