BEVERLY, Mass. –- Spike Albrecht is one clutch player.
Scoring only 11 points in regulation, the 6-foot-1 guard hailing from Crown Point, Ind. stuck his neck out in overtime, taking three trips to the line and going 5-6, including 2 with 2.7 seconds left in the game, lifting Northfield Mt.-Hermon over previously-undefeated Brewster Academy (N.H.), 87-83, in overtime during the semifinal round of the NEPSAC Class AAA basketball tournament at Endicott College.
“It was fatigue, both teams were feeling it,” said Hoggers head coach John Carroll. “The team that had the most left in the tank was going to win, and it looked like it was our guys.”
The teams played point tag for nearly the entire game, first knotting it up at 5 early in the first and lastly at 82 with 2:49 left in overtime. NMH (28-5) won the tap to begin overtime at 78, but a block by Brewster’s Jakarr Sampson thwarted that effort. The Hoggers’ Evan Cummins lit up the board with a free throw at 4:15, sinking one to put them ahead at 79-78. A Brewster miss and an Albrecht rebound resulted in a three by Anthony Dallier -- with an assist from Cummins -- to put them ahead 82-78.
After Cummins missed two free throws, Sampson grabbed the rebound and came down the other end of the court with a put-back, plus the foul, to tie it up at 82. He was unable to complete the three-point play, however, and the game remained even.
The next points would again come from Albrecht, hitting two free throws with 32.5 seconds left in the game. Down 84-82, Brewster’s Mitch McGary went to the line with 17.3 seconds left, made the first but clanged the second. Anthony Dallier got the rebound for the Hoggers, and once again Albrecht was fouled. He was unable to sink both this time, but it was enough to put the Hoggers up by 85-83 with 12.8 seconds to go.
The Bobcats (30-1) were able to get the ball off the Albrecht miss. Down at the other end, Semaj Christon drove to his right but lost control of the ball after colliding with Cummins; Albrecht scooped up the loose ball and immediately was fouled.
With 2.7 seconds left, and with all of the pressure on his shoulders, Albrecht coolly strode to the free throw line and let the ice drip onto the ball, sinking both free throws and putting the game indefinitely out of reach at 87-83.
“He’s the guy that keeps us together, he’s the guy who makes clutch plays,” Carroll said. “When he stepped to the line with that time left, there was no doubt in my mind that they were going in.”
O'Day, What a Day: Although Albrecht carried the Hoggers during overtime, it was Evan O’Day’s 31 points, including five points within the last three minutes of regulation, that gave Northfield Mt. Herman the spark they needed to carry the game into overtime and upset the No. 1 seed in the tournament.
"We've been preparing for these guys for a while," O'Day said. "They beat us by eight at our place the first time. We definitely scouted, did the work. Definitely hats off to Coach Carroll and [assistant coach John] Halas, for doing the scouting report. They really made us work, and we were prepared for them this time for sure."
Big Spike Albrecht was able to score 5 of his team’s nine points in overtime, not because he is a scoring assassin, or has to prove to scouts that he will perform for them because they’ve committed resources to his future, but because he has a big heart.
Albrecht was willing to sacrifice his body in the lane, was able to drown out the noise from the crowd as well as that little voice of doubt that rings whenever a pressure situation pressure situation presents itself, and come through for his team when they needed him to.
“It was nice,” said Albrecht of being fouled and having a chance to shoot uncontested shots. “I always enjoy going to the line at the end of the game. I pride myself on making free throws because that’s what wins games.”
Up Next: NMH will face St. Thomas More (Conn.) in Sunday's Class AAA Final at Endicott at 4 p.m. The Chancellors are coming off a thrilling victory of their own, beating New Hampton on a buzzer beater in the Class AAA semifinal following NMH's win.
The Hoggers beat St. Thomas More in both of their regular season meetings, both by six points oddly enough -- 90-84 on Jan. 13, and 76-70 on Feb. 8.