BY CHAD DARE
---- — VEEDERSBURG, Ind. — Fountain Central junior Koby Pierce knew he was struggling with his shot in Friday's Bi-County Holiday Tournament contest against Seeger.
The 6-foot-2 forward was just 2-for-12 from the field and he missed eight straight shots from the first quarter into the fourth quarter.
But none of that matter in the final minute when Pierce was 4-for-4 at the free-throw line, sealing the Mustangs 45-42 victory over the Patriots.
"Coach is always working us in practice, with those situations where we are down and we have to come back,'' said Pierce as Fountain Central (5-2) rallied from a 42-41 deficit to earn its first berth in the Bi-County Holiday Tournament Championship game since 2009. "The biggest thing is keeping focused in a situation like that.''
And how do you keep focused at the free-throw line in a 1-point game?
"You just have do what you can in that moment,'' said Pierce.
But, did you realize that you had missed a few shots during the game?
"Oh yeah, I knew,'' he said. "But I just had to put that behind me. I had to focused on what I do next to help my team.''
According to Fountain Central coach Jason Good, the fact that Pierce was in a pressure-packed situation probably helped.
"He shoots really well when they are big shots,'' Good said. "When they are not big shots, he struggles.
"I think he overthinks it too much.''
Seeger, which had trailed by as much as 12 in the third quarter (24-12), went on a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to take a 38-33 lead with 4 minutes, 3 seconds left in the contest. Sophomore Borden Kennedy scored eight of his game-high 17 points during that run, including knocking down his only 3-pointers of the game.
"There was no give up in this game. We kept battling and fighting,'' Seeger coach John Collins said. "We got a couple shots to go down, and we got our momentum going a little bit.
"Borden is good, he can do a lot of things. We told him at halftime, that he had to be more aggressive. We tried to spread the floor a little more, and it gave him some lanes.''
The Patriots (4-3) couldn't hold onto the lead as they committed turnovers on five of their final six possessions as both Pierce and Fountain Central's Ethan Woodrow had steals in the final minute.
"We have to be stronger with the ball in late-game situations,'' Collins said. "It's tough to win when the other team has 14 more shots.
"It was turnovers and we missed a lot of easy shots — I think we were a little intimidated by their size.''
Fountain Central took full advantage of having five players at 6-foot-3 or taller against Seeger, which had just one player that tall. The Mustangs had 17 offensive rebounds leading to 13 second-chance points.
"They got a couple of big offensive rebounds late in the game because of their size,'' Collins said. "Our kids were there and I thought we had them blocked out, but they can just go up higher to get the ball.''
One of the key players for the Mustangs on the boards was junior Doug Wallace, as he came off the bench to score nine points and he pulled out a game-high nine rebounds, including four on the offensive end.
"Doug came in and worked his butt off in the second half,'' Pierce said. "He got some really big rebounds and baskets for us in the second half, and they came when we really needed them.''
Good said this was the first time that Wallace has come off the bench for Fountain Central this season.
"He got into early foul trouble and that has been a problem for him this season,'' Good said. "But, he came back strong in the second half. Without his rebounding and scoring, we don't win this game.''
While Kennedy had game-high honors with 17 points, Seeger also got 12 points for Josh Orahood to go along with his team-high nine rebounds.
Woodrow was the leading scoring for Fountain Central with 12, while Clayton Corey had 10 followed by Pierce and Wallace with nine each.
Today's action moves to Covington High School with the boys consolation game between Seeger and Attica tipping off at 2 p.m. (Eastern) and the championship game between Fountain Central and Covington tentatively set to start at 5:30 p.m. The start times have been moved up two hours because of the impending Winter Storm Ion.