GREENCASTLE – The road to the Class 3A Greencastle Sectional championship game seemed to be a smooth ride for the North Montgomery basketball team halfway through Friday night’s semifinal against Frankfort.
Thanks to an 11-4 run to start the second quarter and a 3-pointer just before the buzzer from Jaron Bradford, the Chargers went to the locker room with a 28-15 lead.
North Montgomery needed every point of that advantage to hold off a frantic Frankfort comeback and claim a 49-46 victory.
“Any time you get a win in the tournament, it’s tough,” North Montgomery coach Chad Arnold said after watching the Hot Dogs close within 45-44 with 3:10 remaining.
Preston Shaw’s third bucket of the fourth quarter gave the Chargers a 47-44 lead with 2:37 to go. Shaw finished with a game-high 13 points.
“Honestly, I wish Preston would shoot the basketball more,” said Arnold, whose senior guard was 5 of 9 from the field. “He’s a heck of a basketball player. He’s got some of the best footwork. He’s a 6-4 guard who’s got a lot of game.
“He’s a winner. He’s very coachable. I believe the basketball gods take care of guys who are coachable.”
North Montgomery’s lead remained three points with 1:09 remaining. With just three team fouls to that point in the second half, Frankfort fouled the Chargers four times over the next 10 seconds to put North Montgomery to the line for the one-and-bonus free throws.
Alex Wallace hit a pair of free throws with 49.1 seconds remaining to make it 49-44. A quick bucket by Frankfort’s Trey Frazier slashed the deficit back to 3. After a pair of missed free throws by the Chargers, the Hot Dogs were unable to make two attempts from behind the 3-point line to force overtime.
When offense was tough to come by in the second half for North Montgomery, Zak Searle stepped up with six of his eight points
“He has a nose for the ball,” Arnold said of Searle. ‘He knows where to slash. We missed him a couple of times for layups.”
Wallace added 12 points, while Bradford finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Logan Kelly hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first half and ended up with six points.
Jade Ayers and Braden Compton had 10 points apiece to lead Frankfort, which finishes 7-17.
Standing between North Montgomery (13-10) and its first sectional championship since 2009 is a Saturday night matchup against Danville (21-4), which cruised past Crawfordsville 84-62 in Friday’s second game. The Warriors won the regular season matchup at North Montgomery 69-40 on Jan. 17.
“We’re a lot different team than when we played Danville,” Arnold said. “We’re way better. We’re going to go out tomorrow and play our hardest.”