By JASON EPP
Leader & Times
KISMET — Clayton Chase (17 points) got the ball on the right, low block and dribbled around Syracuse defenders to the middle of the key, finally got around them and went up for the shop. Chase’s shot fell through with 29 seconds to give the Mustangs their first lead since over midway through the third quarter. Syracuse has two more chances, but could not find the bottom of the basket, as the Southwestern Heights Mustangs defeated the Syracuse Bulldogs 62-60.
It was a game that featured seven ties and three lead changes. And after being tied at 26 at the half, Southwestern Heights went on a short tear, scoring six points in the first minute of the second half. And just when it seemed they had momentum Syracuse’s Kyle Dupree drilled a three to cut the biggest lead of the game from seven to four.
Syracuse went on a tear of their own, outscoring Heights 17-4 over the next five minutes. The Bulldogs led 44-40 heading to the fourth. Back to back threes for Syracuse pushed the lead to seven with 6:24 left. Heights cut the lead to four when Chase cut to the basket for two and the foul. The free throw made it only a four-point game again.
Another quick six points in less than a minute brought Heights even, but only for a few seconds. Syracuse’s Gary Parks hit two free throws with 1:34 left to give the Bulldogs a 60-58 lead. Chase’s shot in the paint with 1:09 tied it back up again.
“We’ve been trying to harp on them that the winner of the second half wins the game,” said Mustangs coach Nefro Saucedo. “Basketball is a game of runs. They held together and won. They are doing everything we ask. I can’t fault the hustle that the boys had. We had some breakdowns on defense that gave them some easy buckets, but they are a great scoring team. At the end, we went to a two-man deny. We made the possessions count and scored when we needed to.”
The two teams jostled in the first half as well. The two teams traded baskets, with Heights taking the biggest lead of the half (4) at the end of the first quarter, 14-10. The first half ended with three ties in the final four minutes.
Clay Warsham scored ten for the Mustangs, and Jeff Dutton and Rogelio Martinez each had nine. Syracuse was led by J.D. Howell with 25, and Gary Parks with 13.
The win end a five-year drought against Syracuse, and moves the Mustangs record to a surprising 5-1.
“We wanted to have a few wins before break, but we are way beyond that goal,” said Saucedo. “But now our expectations are a little bit higher, and these guys are starting to believe. This is a very unselfish group, sometimes too unselfish. These guys are working together and looking for each other really well.”