FREDERICK — The way they were playing early on against Dayspring Christian Friday night, the Dawson School boys basketball players had reason to worry that their tremendous season was at risk of ending earlier than expected.
Trailing by as many as nine points in the third quarter of Friday's District 7 semifinals at Frederick High School, the Mustangs closed the gap in the fourth quarter and eventually made the plays needed to win 45-44. With a chance to play for a district championship on Saturday, the Mustangs' 19-2 record is already the best mark in school history.
But boy, did the Mustangs ever cut it close.
"We came out kind of lethargically and for the whole game we couldn't get our act together," Mustangs senior Nick Timms said. "But towards the end, we really pulled through when it could have gone either way. But we've just really focused on playing one play at a time this season. That's what got us here and that's what worked for us at the end."
The Mustangs trailed the Eagles (15-6) for most of the game, and were down 35-29 to start the fourth quarter. Timms tied the game with a pair of free throws with six minutes left and, 40 seconds later, junior Gavyn Pure hit a free throw to give them a one-point lead. Dayspring Christian retook the lead with 59 seconds left.
With 19 seconds remaining, a Dawson 3-point attempt missed way wide but fell right into the waiting hands of senior Bryce Bickel, who put the ball home and gave the Mustangs a lead with 19 seconds left. After taking a charge at the other end, the Mustangs turned over the inbounds pass on their next possession. The Eagles inbounded the ball with 7.5 seconds on the clock but Timms blocked the potential game-winning jump shot at the buzzer.
"I knew that if we played smart and we played slow, we'd get back in the game," Mustangs head coach Tobin Skenandore said. "We got some fortunate calls and we got some good shots to fall in, and we got back in it. We got a little help from Lady Luck."
Dawson won 11 games last season and just eight the year before that. In Friday's playoff win, Pure (18.9 ppg) led the team with 16 points and Timms scored 10.
The Mustangs will face the winner of Friday's other semifinal between undefeated No. 1 Highland (20-0) and No. 4 Union Colony (10-1). Highland defeated the Dawson boys 67-45 on Jan. 24.
Dawson School 45, Dayspring Christian 44
At Frederick H.S.
DAYSPRING CHRISTIAN (15-6)
Donoho 0 0-0 0, Losh 0 0-0 0, Cowles 4 2-2 12, Sides 4 0-0 8, Fargo 4 2-2 11, Crawford 5 1-3 11, Urwiler 1 0-0 2, Anderson 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 5-8 44.
DAWSON SCHOOL (19-2)
Shams 1 0-1 2, Day 0 0-0 0, Bickel 3 0-0 7, Grant-Krenz 0 0-0 0, Burridge 3 0-0 8, Pure 5 4-5 16, Watts 1 0-0 2, Timms 3 4-4 10. Totals 16 8-10 45.
Score by quarters:Dayspring Christian 13 8 14 9 — 44
Dawson School 9 11 9 16 — 45
3-point field goals — Dayspring Christian (3): Cowles 2, Fargo; Dawson School (5): Burridge 2, Pure 2, Bickel. Total fouls — Dayspring Christian 14, Dawson School 12.