After losing three close ballgames in the first three weeks of the season, MICDS boys basketball coach Matt Hixenbaugh felt like the win his Rams got at the buzzer on a trip to Nashville a couple weeks ago, might finally be the one to get the Rams over the hump.
Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way last Saturday evening, when MICDS hosted Westminster Christian Academy in the first round of the 2012 MICDS Boys Holiday Invitational Tournament.
The Rams trailed from very early on, and fell behind by as many as 12 points at one juncture. But the tournament hosts nearly rallied all the way back, getting to within two points in the final seconds.
But a clutch free throw by Westminster's Jack Dohr gave the No. 6-ranked Wildcats just enough edge to hold off the upset-minded Rams for a 47-45 win.
"We won a big game like that at the buzzer last week, and they just seem to even out," Hixenbaugh said. "We'll just hopefully keep getting better towards the end of the year."
MICDS, which is now 3-6 on the season, with three of those losses coming in games decided by four points or fewer, just hasn't had lady luck on its side this year.
On Saturday, the Rams played one of their finest defensive games of the season and unofficially outrebounded Westminster 38-30, but for whatever reason, continued to have key plays go against them.
Turnovers were the culprit against the Wildcats, as MICDS committed several on plays where it had gotten a defensive stop, but wound up giving the ball back without ever even getting a shot attempt.
"Our guys struggled in the first half," Hixenbaugh said. "We really played poorly. We were fortunate to still be in the game."
In fact, after a basket by junior Robin Thompson early in the third quarter, MICDS was down four points against a Westminster club that usually scores about 60 points a game.
Almost on queue though, Westminster reeled off eight straight points midway through the third, including a pair of nifty inside baskets by senior Grant Koby that gave the Wildcats their biggest lead at 31-19.
Koby finished with 14 points and nine rebounds to lead Westminser, while teammate John Eric Steiner added 10 points.
Senior Trey Pettus was the one player that seemed that seemed in rhythm on offense for the Rams, scoring a game-high 21 points, including four three-pointers against a Westminster defense that was doing all it could to make him give up the ball.
The MICDS point guard's biggest shot of the night came with about 30 seconds left, when he drained a three from the right corner that made the score 46-44 Westminster.
"That was a huge shot by Trey," Hixenbaugh said. "He's really been playing well, just like a senior should. We look for him to step up, and he really has."
On Westminster's next possession, MICDS quickly fouled senior Jack Dohr, giving the Wildcats two free throws that could've sealed the game if Dohr made them both.
Instead, he missed the first, but made the second, giving MICDS a chance to tie if it could hit another three.
Unfortunately, Thompson missed a contested three from the top of the key with five seconds left, and with teammate William Morehead, who got fouled on the rebound, forced to try to make the first, but miss the second, Westminster got the final rebound and ran out the clock.
The teams will now go into opposite sides of the bracket, with Westminster headed to the winner's side, where it will face Parkway Central in the tourney quarterfinals, Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m.
MICDS will play in the consolation bracket, and will face Whitfield on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Score by Quarters ........... 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 -- Final Score
MICDS ............................ 7 .. 10 . 11 . 17 -- 45
Westminster Christian ... 15 .. 8 .. 11 . 13 -- 47
MICDS -- Trey Pettus 21, Justin Randle 8, Robin Thompson 8, William Morehead 5, Charlie Frank 3.
Westminster Christian -- Grant Koby 14, John Eric Steiner 10, Jack Dohr 9, Shane Benes 6, Collin Einertson 5, John Barry 2, Brendan Bognar 1.