SPRING VALLEY — To be sure, the Fieldcrest Knights were formidable foes for the Mendota Trojans in the championship tilt of Hall’s Colmone Classsic. Coming in, Fieldcrest had won three straight Colmone Classics, while also notching six of the last seven, as well as eight of the prior 10.
All told, Fieldcrest has hoisted the championship hardware a record 11 times – Hall comes next with six – but it was the Mendota Trojans who ultimately earned their first-ever tournament title, downing the Knights in overtime, 67-62.
“Fieldcrest is a phenomenal team,” said Mendota coach Jan Thompson. “What have they won? How many years in a row? They were going for four possibly this year. I mean, they’re a great, great team. So we knew it was going to be a tight game.
“I just had a really strong confidence that once we got into that overtime, our size and our strength would prevail. I knew that we were good enough free-throw shooters coming down the stretch that we would give ourselves a chance to win. And, sure enough, we hit some big free throws down the stretch to win the game. We’re happy. I’m happy for (our) guys. They definitely deserve it.”
A low-scoring first quarter ended with the Knights holding a 7-4 lead.
Mendota managed to tie the contest, 21-all, by the break.
The Trojans took charge in the game’s third quarter, twice boasting an eight-point edge. Senior Jon Gehm scored all four of his baskets, good for 10 points, in that quarter, as Mendota settled for a 40-36 lead after three.
A Brady Sanders three-pointer with 1:38 to go knotted the score at 50-all. Those were the final points of regulation, as Fieldcrest ran out the final 1:15, but failed to score in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter.
In overtime, Mendota (9-2) came up big at the free-throw line, converting on 11-14 attempts in the extra four minutes, while also getting two big baskets from Tourney MVP Trae Blumhorst (20 points, all of them in the second half and OT).
“I felt like we weren’t doing a very good job of really forcing the ball inside. I talked to Trae (at the half),” said Thompson. “I told Trae that he really needed to be more aggressive inside. I thought Trae really needed to step up and go inside. And he took it to heart. He came out and (got) it inside, and it really, really paid off.”
James Carroll and Austin O’Sadnick added a dozen points each, while O’Sadnick contributed 11 rebounds to go along with Blumhorst’s game-high 12 caroms.
Fieldcrest boasted four players in double figures, including Sanders (22), Kyle Crowley (14), Drew Barth (13) and Nick Panzica (11). The Knights made 13-14 free throws on the night.