Danbury thrillingly opened the second half of District 24-3A play while its senior post continued his domination of district competition.
Ethan Cloudt scored a team-high 30 points in Tuesday’s bout against Harmony School of Discovery, but none were more crucial than a pair of free throws with 46.2 seconds left to lift the Panthers to a 67-66 victory at Danbury High School.
“He was clutch for us,” Panthers coach Nathan Strickland said. “He came up big for us, and he has been stepping it up for us in district play.”
The Panthers (5-3, 7-16) — winners of only two games a season ago — up their win total to seven and sit tightly in third place in the district standings.
“It was a big win, and for us to for sure get in and not have to rely on other people, I told the guys that we have to beat everybody except for Hitchcock and East Bernard,” Strickland said. “Against the other teams, we’ve got to have those games. And we found a way to get a win tonight.”
Danbury saw a 12-point lead early the third quarter evaporate when Deovanny Umerez’s bucket in transition with 4:38 remaining in regulation gave the Tigers their first lead since the game’s opening seconds.
Each team went back and forth in the final 4:38, but a drive in the lane by Michael Goudy with 23.6 seconds left gave the Panthers a 57-54 lead. Coming out of a timeout with 20 seconds left, Harmony’s Jaden Henry took the ball up the floor, settled outside the 3-point line uncontested and drained the game-tying trey with seconds remaining.
Danbury had a final chance when Goudy raced down the floor and passed the ball off to Cloudt, who attempted a close-range jumper at the buzzer, but the ball bounced off the rim to force overtime.
Owen Machacek recorded a bucket, and Cloudt grabbed his ninth rebound and laid the ball in the hoop for a 61-57 lead at the 3:02 mark of OT. The Tigers stormed back with a 3-pointer by Umerez and a drive and layup by Matthew Anegbode. One of two free throws by Umerez gave the Tigers a 66-65 lead with 1:20 to go.
Harmony had a chance to add to its lead when the Tigers regained possession on a blocked shot and headed to the free-throw line, but David Johnson missed both free throws, Cloudt rebounded and was instantly fouled.
The senior came through with his pair of foul shots and snatched his 10th rebound on the defensive to keep the lead intact. The Tigers had the final shot when Henry attempted another heroic 3-point attempt, but the ball banged against the rim.
“On that last play, I wanted Goudy to guard No. 4, and I didn’t want him to get the ball, but he ended up getting it there at the end …” Strickland said. “I wanted someone else to make the play beside No. 4 since he hit that other shot, and he was their big scorer once 23 (Gabriel Paul) fouled out.
“... Also, we didn’t want any fouls.”
Cloudt was dominant to open the game by scoring 12 of the Panthers’ first 14 points, but fouls were the only thing that could deter him as he sat out the rest of the opening quarter.
His play, however, gave the Panthers momentum as Machacek knocked down a 3-pointer to push the lead to 10, 17-7, and Goudy came off the bench to rack up four boards and a bucket. Mason Mitchell concluded the Panthers’ scoring with a 3-pointer to give the team a 22-9 lead after one quarter.
“He (Goudy) has been a real spark off the bench as of late,” Strickland said. “He came up big for us late last week against Boling when he had 17 points off them. He has been a spark guy for us — he comes in, gives us good energy and he is very quick. That’s why I like to use him. He is a nice change of pace, especially if the other team is a little bit quicker than we are. He can match their quickness.”
Danbury struggled when Cloudt was not on the court in the second quarter as Harmony slowly climbed back.
In regulation, Danbury shot 42.8 percent (24-of-56) from the floor, but just 33.3 percent (9-of-27) when Cloudt was out with foul trouble. Danbury committed 27 turnovers, and the Tigers scored 14 points off those miscues.
“I think we were rushing shots; we weren’t being patient and breaking down the defense,” “Strickland said. “We were kind of settling for shots, and they weren’t going in.”
Rayden Roberts opened the second stanza with a 3-pointer to push the Panthers’ lead to 25-9 four seconds in, but Danbury would go scoreless in the next 3:46 and would not record a field goal for the next 4:23.
Harmony took advantage, beginning with back-to-back buckets by Henry, a runner in the lane by Gabriel Paul and a 3-pointer by the freshman point guard Henry — concluding a 9-0 run — to close the gap to seven, 25-18, with 4:25 left in the first half.
Cloudt restored order with a putback to extend the lead to 10. The senior closed out the half by accounting for all of the Panthers’ final eight points to head into the half up 34-24.
However, Cloudt accounted for two of the Panthers’ four third-quarter points as the team struggled to find a second scorer. Danbury committed nine turnovers to allow the Tigers to pull within seven heading into the fourth quarter.
Poor shot selection also hurt the Panthers, who attempted three 3-pointers in a span of four possessions in the third quarter that allowed the Tigers to pull within five at one point.
“We need to be more patient, moving the ball around by working it from side to side to make the zone move,” Strickland said. “That helps get a better-quality shot or it opens a lane for someone to get to the basket for a layup or get to the foul line.
“That’s what I always preach. Even if Cloudt is not in the game, it is still the same thing we are trying to do.”
Cloudt accounted for nearly half of the Panthers’ point total with his 30 points and 10 rebounds for another double-double. Machacek added 11 points and six boards and Roberts contributed 10 points. Goudy finished with six.
“In the past couple of games, he (Cloudt) has had about 20 points every game,” Strickland said. “He has been a difference-maker for us.
“We’ve pulled out wins in our last two district road games. We were down by 15 points to Hempstead, and we came back to beat them in a close overtime game. Then last week against Boling, we were down by six at halftime and we squeaked it out. I think we are learning how to win the close ones and buckling down when it matters.”
The Panthers continue district play Friday when they travel to Wallis to face Brazos.