Cats squander fourth-quarter lead to Capital

With their first league victory almost in their grasp, Aberdeen’s boys fell victim to a long-range Capital assault.

Hitting five 3-point shots in the fourth quarter, the Cougars charged from behind for a 61-55 victory over the Bobcats in an Evergreen 2A Conference boys basketball game Thursday night at Sam Benn Gym.

Fluid senior guard Keenan Williams scored 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to rally Capital (3-2, 8-5).

That enabled the Cougs to overcome a dominant inside performance by Aberdeen senior post Collin Nord. In what AHS coach Leonard Barnes called his finest outing of the season, Nord made 8-of-10 field-goal attempts and 8-of-10 free throws in leading all scorers with 24 points.

Significantly, the Cats were unable to consistently get Nord the ball in a fourth quarter in which he failed to even launch a shot.

The Bobcats (0-6, 3-10), who have experienced difficulty putting together four quality quarters this season, paid the price for two critical lapses.

With Nord nearly unstoppable on the low blocks and senior forward Zack Ball chipping in with nine points, they owned a nine-point lead early in the second quarter. Forcing eight turnovers in the final four minutes with a swarming, trapping defense, Capital trimmed the deficit to 27-26 at the half.

Sparked by improved ball-handling and Nord’s 10 points in the period, Aberdeen was back on top by nine, 42-33, at the 3:08 mark of the third quarter.

The Bobcats led 45-37 at quarter’s end and 48-43 on Ball’s three-ball from the right wing with 5:10 remaining in the contest.

They squandered an opportunity to pad their advantage by missing the front end of three one-and-one free-throw situations in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Then the Cougars began heating up from the perimeter against Aberdeen’s zone.

After Williams’ second trey of the quarter cut the margin to two, Capital moved ahead to stay, 49-48, on a Jacob Pratt three from the right wing with 4:26 on the clock.

William again hit from downtown at the 3:14 mark to increase the lead to 54-50.

The Bobcats were as close as three, 58-55, when Deon Schlesser connected from inside the key with 55 seconds remaining. After Williams made one of two free throws 10 seconds later, Aberdeen’s last hope vanished with its 20th turnover of the contest at 0:30.

“We gave up three 3’s in a row and we missed the front end of three one-and-ones. That’s the ball game,” Barnes observed.

Nord’s resume also included five rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.

Ball finished with 16 points, Schlesser pulled down eight rebounds and senior guard Veek Cheema had five rebounds and four assists for Aberdeen.

While lamenting the critical breakdowns, Barnes wasn’t unhappy with his team’s effort.

“I told them if they play that way the rest of the way, we’ll win some games,” the Aberdeen coach signed off.

Justin Rudd, Capital’s other significant long-distance threat, tallied 16 points for the visitors. The Cougars were missing four seniors due to a combination of injuries and defections.

The Bobcats have two home games next week and only one more the remainder of the season. They’ll host Black Hills on Tuesday.

Cap 12 14 11 24 — 61 Abe 17 10 18 10 — 55

Capital (61) — Williams 20, Pratt 6, Rudd 16, Clarke, Cox 10, Brown, Yount 5, Nibler 4, Duncan. FG — 22-57 (.386). FT — 8-15.

Aberdeen (55) — Dietrich 5, Cheema 8, Schlesser 2, Nord 24, Ball 16, Fairchild, Harke, Williamson, Taylor, Follett. FG — 19-43 (.442). FT — 13-19.

JV — Capital 61, Aberdeen 54. Addam Follett 14 points; Payton Campbell nine points for Aberdeen.

C Squad — Capital 60, Aberdeen 43. Kaleb Bell 19 points for Aberdeen.