After dismal seasons a year ago, Crespi and Royal highs showed Wednesday night at Crespi High why they have become two of the Valley area’s most improved teams.
Crespi won the nonleague game in overtime, 67-63, but the outcome was in doubt until Mike Tilkian intercepted a Chris Noyes pass and went the length of the floor to score as the buzzer sounded.
“It’s a good win,” Crespi Coach Paul Muff said. “At least we didn’t get discouraged. That’s a good sign.”
There was plenty for the Celts to be discouraged about late in the third period when they fell behind by nine. But Crespi (8-5), which won just three games last season, battled back against Royal (7-4), which won only once a season ago.
The Celts still trailed, 40-35, after three quarters and had lost starting center Ken Lynch to fouls early in the third period. But Tilkian led the comeback midway through the final quarter.
Crespi trailed, 51-45, with 4:10 to play when Tilkian, a 6-1 guard, took over. He made a free throw to cut the margin to five, then, after two free throws by teammate Matt Turner, Tilkian converted a three-pointer to tie the score, 51-51, with 3:10 to go.
Tilkian, who finished with 16 points, added two more three-pointers in the quarter and Bill Foudy--who led all scorers with 21 points--added one as Crespi took a 60-58 lead with a minute and a half left.
Royal’s Noyes, who finished with 15 points, hit a jumper to tie the score with 1:09 to play, and after a Celt turnover, the Highlanders worked the clock down to 10 seconds and called timeout.
But when play resumed, J. P. Ouellette’s three-pointer missed, forcing overtime.
Crespi reserve center Joe Higgins, who played well in Lynch’s absence, won the tip and Foudy sank a long jumper to give the Celts a 62-60 lead they never relinquished.
The Celts led, 65-63, when Higgins blocked a shot by Tony Strickland, but the ball went out of bounds to the Highlanders with 15 seconds left.
Ouellette missed another three-point try with six seconds remaining. Then Tilkian made his dramatic steal.
Strickland finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds for Royal, which made just 1 of 5 shots in overtime.
“We didn’t perform that well,” Muff said, “but we did what we had to at the end. It became anybody’s game.”