By Jim Hintelmann
MIDDLETOWN – Middletown High School South (5-17) has been struggling this season but the 52-48 A Division North win Feb. 14 over rival Middletown North was welcome relief.
“No kids deserved to win this game more than this group,” South coach Kevin Cullen said. “They play hard every day in practice and fight hard at night. We’ve been injury-prone and sickness-prone all season.”
South, playing its best game of the season, took a 46-40 lead with 3:30 remaining on two free throws by Matt Gray, who led all scorers with 22 points.
“Gray is a terrific floor leader and is a great basketball player,” Cullen said. “It’s very hard to play him off the dribble and that is where we used him tonight.”
North cut the lead to 46-45 on a drive by Tristan Hook with 1:45 remaining, but South’s Kevin Naughton came back with two foul shots. Hook followed with a drive at the 50-second mark to make it a 1-point lead again.
Naughton and North’s Ian Wyckoff traded free throws, but Naughton dropped in three more foul shots to wrap it up.
“North is our crosstown rival,” Gray said. “They’ve beaten us the past two years and it was time to get back at them … I’m overwhelmed because our record hasn’t been good this season. We lost a lot of close games and we needed this game.”
North seemed in control of the game when it grabbed a 16-10 lead in the first quarter on a layup by Hook, but South came back with 11 straight points, 5 by Nick Wiley and 4 by Gray to go in front, 21-16.
South’s Chris Frawley drilled a pair of treys to give the lead back to the Eagles, 22-21, but North moved back in front at the half, 26-24.
The third quarter was evenly played with North scoring the final 5 points of the period to tie it at 36 and set up the thrilling finish.