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LECANTO — The last seven seconds of Saturday afternoon’s boys basketball game between Seven Rivers Christian and Indian Rocks Christian were the pure definition of a double whammy for the Warriors.
Spencer Adkinson got an offensive rebound and put-back for the visitors and forced Seven Rivers standout Adam Gage to pick up his fifth foul with 7.2 seconds left in overtime.
Adkinson drained the free throw to put the Eagles up two points and effectively end the game then during an eventual 67-65 victory.
Gage was the third Warrior to foul out, simultaneously taking away Seven Rivers’ best option for a final shot and forcing the school to play with only four players.
The Warriors (4-5 overall) had just seven players suited up Saturday, and Gage joined John Iwaniec and Liam Cash, who had each fouled out in the fourth quarter, on the bench.
“It goes down to what we’ve dealt with all week, with the flu going through our school,” Seven Rivers coach Jim Ervin said. “We had six varsity players and a JV player, but I don’t want to make excuses.
“Even with Adam Gage on the bench at the end of the game, I still had the confidence in my team to make something happen.”
Seven Rivers turned the ball over with about two seconds left at midcourt, allowing Indian Rocks to erase a 12-point deficit after one quarter and escape central Florida with a victory.
The visiting Eagles (7-6 overall) suffered a one-point loss at Ocala Trinity Catholic on Friday night and were glad to be on the right side of a close contest. Seven Rivers was coming off its own disappointing loss, a four-point setback Friday at home against District 2A-4 foe St. John Lutheran.
“They’re just one of the best-coached teams we’re going to face this season,” Indian Rocks coach Joe Frost said of Seven Rivers.
Gage poured in 30 points to lead all scorers, 21 of which came in the second half. A 6-foot-4 shooting guard, the Seven Rivers junior showed on consecutive possessions why the Indian Rocks bench repeatedly yelled out “Shooter!” whenever Gage crossed half-court.
Down 54-51 with less than five minutes remaining in the contest, Gage squared up and nailed a three-pointer from the left win to knot the score at 54-all. After a miss by the Eagles, the Warriors came back down the court and found Gage again on the left side for another long-distance shot to stake Seven Rivers to a 57-54 lead.
“I definitely had to start attacking more,” Gage said. “Attacking the hoop and pulling up for shots, trying to create opportunities.”
Up until that point, Gage had taken just 10 shots from the field despite clearly being able to get his shot whenever he wanted. It was a credit to Indian Rocks’ awareness of the Warrior all day but the Eagles were forced to send Gage to the free throw line 18 times, where he hit 13 of those attempts.
“If you could (microphone) our bench during the game, we’re yelling at Adam to shoot it,” Ervin said. “But that speaks to Adam as a young man ... He’s just so unselfish.”
Gage also hit 3 of his 7 three-point attempts and shot a total of 7 of 12 from the field. He added nine rebounds and two assists.
“The biggest thing is you have to know where No. 14 is,” Frost said. “You have to know where Gage is, he’s such a nice player.”
Warriors freshman Zach Saxer had 14 points and eight rebounds as the Warriors’ only other player in double figures. Jared Bogart, (eight points), Iwaniec (seven points) and Cash (six points) were the only other Seven Rivers players to score.
Indian Rocks got a team-high 22 points from Ryan Ferguson, 21 by Adkinson and Eddie Moralobo’s 16 points.
Seven Rivers shot well in the first quarter, making their first five shots of the game to take a 19-7 advantage after the opening eight minutes.
With attention elsewhere, Saxer and Bogart each scored five points in the opening period.
“I guess they were keying on me,” Gage said, “but that’s when you have to find your teammates and have faith they’ll make shots.”
After outscoring Seven Rivers 22-12 in the second quarter, Indian Rocks trailed by two heading into halftime. The Eagles would actually seize control of the game behind point guard Moralobo’s decisive drives straight to the hoop in the third quarter, which led to seven straight points by him at one point and opening things up inside for Ferguson and Adkinson.
“We told them after the first, just keep chipping away, possession by possession,” Frost said.
Gage hit some big free throws down the stretch, hitting four in a row to twice regain the lead for Seven Rivers, the last time at 64-63 with 11 seconds left in the game.
But a loose ball foul on Gage after a missed Indian Rocks shot, put Ferguson on the line with a chance for the win with 1.7 seconds left. After missing the first free throw, the Eagles forward canned the second to send it to overtime.
Seven Rivers plays 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 3 at Branford.