Vikings win overtime thriller

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Alec Kobre took advantage of a mental mistake by Cardinal Newman and hit a 3-point shot as time expired in overtime to propel visiting Montgomery to a 44-42 North Bay League basketball victory Tuesday night.

Montgomery's Anthony Becker battles for a rebound. Photo by Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

The Vikings were about to inbound the ball with 2.2 seconds to go. At that point, Newman coach Tom Bonfligli called a timeout. He instructed his players to clog the middle to avoid a lob to 6-foot-9 Ben Freeland and then commit a foul as soon as a Montgomery player gained possession.

Since Montgomery was not yet in the one-and-one bonus, Bonfligli told his players to foul once, let the Vikings throw the ball in and foul again. The coach assured his team that time would expire if they followed instructions and committed the two fouls.
Instead, the Newman players allowed Kobre to take the ball, dribble three times and toss up a shot from at least 30 feet out. The ball swished through the net as the buzzer sounded.

“I knew it was in when I let it go,” Kobre said in the jubilant Montgomery locker room. “I have a basket in my backyard and I throw up shots like that and pretend I’m Kobe Bryant.
“It was just like I’ve seen Kobe do. You have a player in your face and you somehow get the shot off and you know it’s in when it leaves your hands.”

Kobre was supposed to take the final shot, but it wasn’t the play that coach Tom Fitchie drew up.

“We tried to set two screens to give Kobre some daylight,” Fitchie said. “It didn’t work out and Alec just threw up a lucky shot.”

When the ball came inbounds to the 6-foot-3 Kobre, 6-foot-6 Chris Cavalin was guarding him.

“I gave him a head fake and that gave me a little separation,” Kobre said. “It’s the first game winner I’ve had at the varsity level and to do it against Newman is a great feeling.”
Prior to his game winner, Kobre was having an off night. Saddled with three fouls early in the second quarter, the senior sat out nearly half the game. He wound up with 12 points, four below his average.

In the Newman locker room, there was stunned silence. Xavier McCall, who hit a driving layup with four seconds left in overtime to give his team a 42-41 lead, sat against the wall with his jersey pulled over his face.
Bonfigli, meanwhile, tried to make sense of what had just happened.

“When you don’t play intelligent, bad things happen,” the coach said. “I called timeout specifically to tell my players we had two fouls to give. They clogged the middle like they were supposed to, but to let Kobre dribble and then get off a shot, that’s not playing smart.

“This was a game we should’ve won.”
Montgomery was out of timeouts when Bonfigli told the referees he wanted to use his last one.
“I didn’t know why he did it,” Fitchie said. “It was a lucky shot and a lucky win. We’re happy to take it.”

The Vikings’ Freeland led all scorers with 21.
“I was able to get the guy guarding me on my high side and that enabled me to get to the basket,” Freeland said. “It was an amazing game. Kobre’s shot was clutch.”

Bobby Sharp led Newman with 19 points, one more than McCall.
Montgomery appeared on its way to win in regulation. The Vikings led 39-34 with less than three minutes remaining. A 3-point goal by McCall and a driving layup by Sharp sent the game to overtime.

The victory gives the Vikings sole possession of first place in the NBL with a 5-0 mark. The Cardinals had their eight-game winning streak snapped and are 4-1 in league.
Overall, Montgomery is 15-2 while Newman falls to 13-4.
Another capacity crowd is assured for the rematch on Feb. 7 at the Vikings’ gym.