COMEBACK WIN … William Donovan drives baseline with a Fayette defender on his hip in the first half. (PHOTO BY JACOB KESSLER / THE VILLAGE REPORTER)
By: Joe Blystone
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
STRYKER (December 12, 2023) – Didn’t your mama tell you when you were young that good things come when you least expect it from the most unexpected place and most unexpected time?
After racing out to a 14-point second quarter lead, Stryker went into a deep crevice of a scoring slump and went from 14-up to 1-down in the fourth quarter against Fayette.
That’s when the man who hadn’t taken a shot all night came to the rescue as Devin Montague laced three straight triples to help bring the Panthers all the way back and get past the Eagles 48-44.
“That’s the fun part about basketball,” long time Panther coach Tyler Woolace said of Montague’s fourth quarter flurry. “You never know who is going to step up.”
“There were five guys out there and all five of us were playing pretty bad throughout the game and I’m yelling out there, ‘someone step up, someone step up,’ and Devin was that guy. He said I’ll be that guy, I’m going to shoot it and he doesn’t normally shoot threes, but he stepped up and hit three huge ones.”
Gavin LaBo scored the first nine Panther points of the night and Owen Rupp came off the bench to bag a long three with a minute left in the first to boost Stryker up 14-4.
Two straight times Daniel Donovan found Michael Donovan for long range hits in the second to make it 20-6 with 5:44 left in the half.
And suddenly… the well and any source of scoring went basically dry as the Panthers scored just nine points in the next 16 minutes.
And also, just as fast, Fayette went from ice ball cold (2-17 to that point), to white hot. Sebastian Jacob, Wyatt Mitchell each nailed one from the top of the key and Xander Dunnett rammed one from deep off the glass and in to chop a comfortable margin down to 20-15.
Jacob Myers scored on a block-to-block game from Rupp to give Stryker a 24-18 lead at the break, but the Eagles were far from gone.
After LaBo increased the Panther advantage to 26-18 to start the third, Mitchell went time and time to the rim to bring Fayette back.
Three consecutive Stryker turnovers led to a trio of Mitchell flights to the glass, including a three-point play that bumped the Eagles past the Panthers 27-26 with 5:00 on the clock.
Daniel Donovan’s three-ball regained a Stryker lead, but Dunnett answered right back to put the Eagles on top 30-29.
While Stryker misfired the next four possessions, Mitchell scored another three-point play on a drive and then got to the rim down the same slot on his strong side before Carter Lavinder rebounded his own shot that was blocked and scored at the third quarter horn to make it 37-29 heading into the fourth.
Xander Goble found Lavinder all by himself on a diagonal pass to the block to give the Eagles their biggest margin at 39-29 with 6:07 left.
“Give credit to Fayette,” Woolace said. “Wyatt Mitchell is a heckuva player, he got to the hole tonight and looked really good and for a while we couldn’t figure it out.”
“But then our defense brought us back. When we extended out, we wanted the ball in his hands the least amount possible. How we could get it out of his hands and make other players perform.”
William Donovan’s bucket with 5:48 left broke a long drought of one field goal in nine minutes to slice the Fayette lead under double figures.
Then with 5:00 on the clock, Montague struck. The senior post nailed a triple from above the top of the key and after Lavinder scored for the Eagles, he hit again to reduce the deficit to 42-37 Daniel Donovan buried another from long range to get Stryker within a bucket with 3:00 to go.
Mitchell who struggled getting to the rim in the fourth used a stutter dribble to double the Eagle lead with 2:20 on the clock but LaBo answered with a baseline drive ‘and-1″ 24 seconds later to make it a one-point game.
An Eagle turnover regained possession for Stryker and after a triple try miss, Montague hit nothing but the bottom of the well with 57 seconds remaining to give Stryker the lead for keeps.
Daniel Donovan hit 2/2 from the stripe with 20 seconds left to make it a two-possession game and with fouls to give, the Panthers milked 11 seconds off the clock before the Eagles even had a legit try at the rim.
Mitchell had a game high 23, but no other Eagle came close to double figures. LaBo had 14 for Stryker and Daniel Donovan 12.
Each team had nine turnovers but five of Fayette’s came in the fourth when Woolace attacked in the halfcourt, forcing Mitchell to pass the ball away.
Stryker is now 2-2 while Fayette fell to 0-3.
FAYETTE (44) – Lavinder 6; Leininger 0; Mitchell 23; Beauregard 0; Jacob 5; Goble 3; Dunnett 7; Totals: 13-4-6 -44
STRYKER (48) – M. Donovan 6; Myers 2; LaBo 14; Cadwell 0; D. Donovan 12; W. Donovan 2; Au. Batterson 0; Devin Montague 9; Rupp 3; Totals: 9-9-3 – 48
FAYETTE 4 14 19 7 – 44
STRYKER 14 10 5 19 – 48
JUNIOR VARSITY: Stryker, 33-20