WORCESTER, Mass. -- Steve Flynn grabbed the long rebound, threw a long outlet to his star teammate upcourt, watched as Matt Mobley spotted up from behind the three-point line on the right wing, and muttered to himself, "Don't shoot the ball, Matt."
And whaddaya know, the kid went ahead and sank it.
Suddenly, St. Peter-Marian had tied it at 76 with 1:19 to go in regulation against their inter-city parochial rivals Holy Name, after trailing by as much as 18 points earlier in the second half. But only after it was all over, after the Guardians escaped their home gym with an 85-83 overtime win after two decent Holy Name looks went empty in the final 10 seconds, would Flynn truly exhale.
"I'm thinking that better go in," Flynn laughed of the momentum-shifting shot. "He's got a sweet stroke, you know. It's a good shot for him."
Of course, the Naps (10-2) got a good look at the end of regulation to force four extra minutes. Up 79-76, the Guardians (9-2) had a chance to go up by five after Flynn (11 points, seven rebounds) swatted a layup attempt by Daniel Kegbeh (20 points, 20 rebounds), and the 6-foot-3 Mobley was fouled on the rebound. But he missed both free throws, and at the other end junior Isaiah came up with his only basket of the game -- a three-ball from the left corner -- to tie it at 79 and force overtime.
With under three minutes left in the extra frame, Mobley came off a high screen and drew a shooting foul from Anthony Hodges. Mobley made the front end of the the two free throws; Brian Foley came up with the rebound and put-back to make it 83-80. One minute later, Michael Woll hit a three from the top of the key to tie it at 83. But on the ensuing trip down the floor, Mobley cut across the lane, shifting his weight mid-air as he sank a jumper to put them up again.
Naps head coach Jason Chavoor called a timeout with 14 seconds remaining, and out of it they got two good looks. Tatum missed one from the same spot he hit earlier, but just inside the three-point line; Jacek Lousiville's follow-up windmill layup missed as well, as the buzzer sounded.
Tyler Delorey also poured in with 20 points for the Naps, including a 3-for-7 mark from long range. Louisville also had 13 points, and Hodges 12, in the losing effort.
Flynn finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, including nine and five respectively in the fourth quarter. Tre Watson also had 10 ponits in the win.
Mobley Time: Mobley scored 17 points in the second half and extra frame, but it was a sequence of plays at the start of the fourth quarter, when the Guardians trailed 64-51, that kick-started the comeback. On Holy Name's first trip down the court of the quarter, Mobley came up with a steal at midcourt and laid it in on the ensuing breakaway. The next trip down, Mobley picked the ballhandler's pocket again and made a nice dish to Tre Watson on the break, to cut the lead to single digits.
Mobley then cut it to 72-69 with 2:43 left with an off-balance leaner, before completing the comeback with a three-pointer that sent the student section directly behind him -- and literally standing inches from the court -- into a frenzy.
"Second half, I knew I just had to keep shooting," Mobley said. "I had to get my teammates involved more, crash the boards, and my shots fell."
This isn't the first time he's come alive like this in the last minutes. In fact, he's made a habit of this at times this year. At times he has taken his share of criticism for seemingly disappearing for stretches in the game, and not playing tighter defensively. But when the fourth quarter arrives, more favorable things just start to happen -- his touch around the rim gets softer, his mid-range jumpers fall, his long arms are able to reach out for a pickpocket or long rebound to initiate the break.
"First half, I usually my teammates involved," he said. "Fourth quarter is when I like to take over, and hopefully get us a win."
Hodges vs. Mobley, pt. 2: Just as it was two weeks ago when the Naps beat SPM 70-69 at their own gym, the key matchup in tonight's rematch was how well Hodges would mark Mobley. In the first meeting, Hodges held Mobley to 5-of-13 from the field (oddly enough, also Mobley's first-half total tonight) and told ESPN Boston, "I knew if I held him to less than 20 points we could get the win." Mobley was held to 15 points, and the Naps won at the last second.
Tonight, Hodges was airtight once again and dogged Mobley for good stretches, but the advantage has to go to the electric Guardians swingman for his fourth-quarter performance in leading the comeback. Foley's putback that made it 83-80 came courtesy of Hodges' foul on the arm; Mobley was smarter this time around in using screens to create space for himself, and Hodges was late coming off the pick.
"I had to use the screens better," Mobley said. "Last game, I wasn't using the screens as good. I cut a little harder, got open and made my layups."
Feeding the post: One of the biggest reasons for the Guardians' surge as of late has been their post play. In their shocking upset last weekend of Charlestown, the Guardians came out in a zone and forced jump shots, and in turn dominated the post. Two weeks ago, the Guardians mounted a similar comeback against the Naps, albeit one that came up just short; but kick-starting the comeback was the post play, getting multiple touches inside to their big men to create high-percentage shots.
For most of tonight, Kegbeh was a nuisance around the rim, out-jumping the Guardians' big post players to board after board. Early on, the Naps controlled the glass and pushed the ball upcourt quickly with their guard-heavy lineup, jetting out to a 17-4 lead in the first quarter.
Holy Name outrebounded SPM 30-12 through three quarters, but the Guardians held a 15-10 advantage in the fourth quarter and overtime period combined.
"I know going into most games that we have an advantage on the glass," head coach Marcus Watson said. "I have three kids that are between 6-5 and 6-6 up front, I have an athletic 6-3 kid that can jump to the moon, I have tough guards who can box out and get rebounds. So rebounding for us, when we put our heads to it, is not an issue."
So the first half, Watson says, was a matter of getting "a little away from our character."
"I got some good advice about playing a 2-3 zone against Charlestown, I tried to bring it here and it didn't work," he said. "Holy Name shot the crap out of the ball, and I give them credit. But we got back to who we were -- man-to-man defense, our press up front, moving the basketball, and if you look, we got multiple touches from multiple people."
Packed house: Prior to tonight's game, Watson said you had to go back to the days of Naadir Tharpe, when the freshman point guard at Kansas was just a sophomore at SPM, to find the last time the gym was this packed. Spectators arrived as many as three hours before the game; tickets were sold out by 5 p.m., two hours before tipoff. Couple that with the compact gymnasium's dimensions -- when standing, front-row spectators are less than a foot from the court -- and you had a loud atmosphere that hasn't been seen too often around Forest Grove.
"This game tonight meant a lot for a lot of different people," Watson said. "This group was 1-19 as freshmen, and they're persevering. To have people waiting here at 4:30 to get into our game, and closing our door because...the city wanted to come. We had people waiting, and whoever left this game was not disappointed -- win or loss. The school spirit from both sides, back and forth, it was an atmosphere you dream about.
"The home crowd, the kids can reach out and touch us if they want to. It's a special place to play. I'm just proud for my kids, and I'm proud for Central Mass. in general."