FROSTBURG — Jalen Jones scored four points in the final 20 seconds in a frantic finish as La Lumiere snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat, beating defending champion DeMatha 51-50 in the opening night’s final game at the 53rd annual ACIT.
The Lakers, 25-3 and ranked No. 8 in the nation by USA Today and No. 9 by ESPN, trailed 50-45 with only 28 seconds to play when the defense forced the first of three DeMatha turnovers in the final half minute.
DeMatha had the ball and the five-point lead but was unable to inbound the ball near halfcourt. James scored on a drive of the lane to cut it to 50-47 with 22 seconds to go, and Detrick Mostella came up with a steal on the press, was fouled, and hit two free throws to make it 50-49 with 16 seconds left. Jones followed with a steal, was fouled, and hit both of his free throws to put the Lakers up 51-50 with 4.3 seconds remaining.
But it wasn’t over yet. Four seconds seemed like an eternity in this final quarter.
DeMatha got the ball just past midcourt, and called a timeout. A lobbed inbound pass struck the rim with 2.1 seconds left and bounced out of bounds. La Lumiere gained possession, but an inbound pass was tipped away and swiped by DeMatha’s Alex Newbold, who got off a half-court shot that was on line the whole way. It hit backboard and rim, but fell to the floor as the buzzer sounded.
“We stole one. Absolutely,’’ said La Lumiere coach Alan Sluss, who had been whistled for a technical that led to a free throw that put the Stags up 50-45 at the 28-second mark. “(DeMatha) beat us. The guys picked me up. They did a good job of keeping their composure when their coach didn’t.”
Mostella, a 6-foot-3 guard headed to Oklahoma State, scored 23 points on 8 of 12 shooting and had five three-point goals. Sam Logwood added 11 points and James finished with 10.
Corey Henson had 17 points for DeMatha (13-15), which roared back after scoring only 16 points in the first half. The Stags trailed 27-16 at the break after making only 1 of 19 shots in the second quarter.
“We’ve had some games like that this year,’’ DeMatha coach Mike Jones said. “I feel bad for our seniors because they don’t get a chance to defend their title. We just did a bad job down the stretch, and I hope our young guys can learn from it.
“But we played a great second half, minus the last 28 seconds, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
The Lakers trailed 13-9 after a Henson three-point goal midway through the first half but outscored the Stags 18-3 the rest of the half, a span of nearly 11 minutes.
The largest lead was 30-18 after a three-pointer by Mostella in the first minute of the second half. Isaiah Buck answered with a three-pointer of his own to help get DeMatha get untracked, and the Lakers were unable to solve the Stags zone defense for long stretches. They had 12 turnovers in the second half and 18 over the last three quarters.
“We got stagnant on offense. They went to a 2-3 zone on us and I think that’s when we showed we hadn’t played in three weeks,’’ said Sluss. “We were sloppy, and didn’t make any shots. Things just started to steamroll on us.”
DeMatha got to within 35-34 by the end of the third quarter, and went ahead for the first time since 13-12, 42-40, on a steal and layup by Henson with 3:36 to go. Henson and Alex Newbold each had seven points in DeMatha’s fourth-quarter surge.
Mike Mathews is a sports writer for the Cumberland Times-News. He can be reached at email@example.com.