On a night when his team needed every ounce of scoring and playmaking he could possibly give them, junior Nolan Berry delivered in a big way for the Spartans, Tuesday night, in their third matchup this season against Hazelwood Central.
Berry, possibly the area’s best talent from the 2013 graduating class, poured in a career-high 36 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead De Smet to a spine-tingling, 68-62 overtime win over the visiting Hawks.
“That was fun,” De Smet head coach Kevin Poelker said. “When you get two good teams together like that, you’re going to get good games, and I thought both teams played well. I’m just glad our guys were able to play a little better.”
Which they were able to do mostly because of another incredible night for Berry, who had 15 points in both the first and second halves, but added another vital six points in the overtime that helped De Smet finally put away Hazelwood Central.
“We wanted him to be aggressive tonight,” Poelker said. “And he didn’t really force it. He took the shots we wanted him to, and he did a real nice job of sort of putting us on his back.”
With Berry dropping in jumpers from all over the court, the Spartans took control of the game thanks to a 13-2 run over the final five minutes of the second quarter that turned a tight ballgame into a 35-22 De Smet halftime edge.
In the third quarter, the Spartans led by as many as 13 points early on, before Central began to rally to make a game of it in the fourth quarter.
In fact, the Hawks even managed to take the lead at 51-50, following a quick 9-3 spurt, which was sparked by a deep three-pointer by Central senior B.J. McLaughlin and a beautiful runner in the lane senior point guard Marcus Lampley.
But Berry came right back and drilled his own deep shot from beyond the arc to give De Smet the lead again at 53-51.
Central answered right back as well, with a short jumper by sophomore Demarco Buchanan and a pair of free throws by McLaughlin that gave the Hawks a 55-53 lead with 2:37 left.
But that’s when De Smet point guard Jimmy Barton, the area leader in assists with more than eight helpers a game, got hot and hit two straight sensational runners in the lane to give the Spartans back the lead with a minute and half left on the clock.
And it seemed like those plays might be enough to get De Smet past Hazelwood Central, but Hawk junior Jordan Martin powered in a putback bucket off his own miss, that tied the score and sent the game to overtime.
De Smet nearly won the game in regulation when Barton found teammate Alec Bausch wide open on the right baseline on an inbounds pass with two seconds, but Bausch’s 12-footer jumper rimmed out, giving Central new life in the extra period.
“We got what we wanted there,” Poelker said. “We got a good look with a wide-open guy. In that situation, that’s all you can really hope for.”
The overtime though, was all De Smet.
Central scored the first basket in overtime to take the lead, and also got a three-pointer from Lampley on the final shot of the game.
But in between, it was the Spartans that did all the scoring – 11 straight points to be exact – to cinch themselves the win.
“I thought we stepped up our level in overtime,” Poelker said.
The final outcome gave both teams identical 17-6 records this year.
The Hawks will be back in action on Thursday, when they’ll host Maplewood at 6:30 p.m.
The Spartans will be off until Friday night, when they’ll take on No. 2-ranked Vianney, in a 7 p.m. game at Vianney High School, that could clinch the Metro Catholic Conference for the host Golden Griffins, who are 21-1 and unbeaten in league games this year.
“We haven’t really thought too much about Vianney yet,” Poelker said. “We have too much respect for Hazelwood Central to think past this game tonight. But now that this one’s over, we can look ahead, and Friday should be a lot of fun.”
De Smet’s final home game of the season and Senior Night celebration is slated for Thursday, February 16, when the Spartans will host Oakville at 7 p.m.