JOHN CURTIS - Daily Union Sports Editor
SHELBYVILLE, IL. — It was the sloppiest Stew-Stras Homecoming Hatchet game in recent memory. Despite the play being more of a blunt object than a sharp performance, it was one of the most exciting Hatchet games in the series. In the end, the Comet Hatchet mystic magic pulled out the hometown win in overtime, 72-69.
Over the last 20 years the Comets have owned their annual homecoming game against Windsor, losing only a couple of times and winning by blowouts many times.
But this Comet Hatchet game had 11 ties and 17 lead changes as the atmosphere fed into the helter skelter pace.
The mystic of Comet Country and the packed house in close confines can be overwhelming. The atmosphere gins up the excitement and the players have to control their emotions more than in other games.
That control wasn't there on Wednesday night and it led to hectic play, turnovers, and pushing fouls, grabbing fouls, and payback fouls between rivals and co-op baseball teammates. Players on both sides fouled out.
However, just when one team started to pull away, the other would hold on and comeback. It was a rollercoaster ride worth watching.
Windsor drew 1st blood with a Tristan Warner shot and a Hayden Cole put back, 4-0. Jason Fry drove the lane and put the Comets on the board.
Brandon Helmuth tied the game and then gave Stew-Stras the lead, 6-4. The Comets were up 10-6, before two transition plays from Warner to Alex Allen knotted the score with 2:15 left in the 1st, 10-10.
Warner broke a 12-12 tied with 10 seconds left in the 1st with a 3-pointer, 15-12.
Spencer Blackburn stretched the Devil lead at the foul line to 5 points, 17-12, their largest lead of the 1st half. The Comets pulled the Devils back in with two Fry scores and a Helmuth 3 for a 19-17 lead.
Warner stopped the 7-0 run with a put-back on a missed free throw, 19-19. Fry split a pair at the line for the Comet lead, then Warner hit Rylan Ard for a two and a Devil lead, 21-20. Windsor went up 26-23, but Helmuth hit another 3 for another tie.
Stew-Stras led at the half as Fry drove the lane, missed, but got his own rebound and put back, 28-26.
Warner nailed a trey to open the 2nd half scoring and give Windsor the lead, 29-28. Stew-Stras reclaimed it then Mitchell Haddock cashed in his first 3 of the game for another Devil lead, 32-31.
The Comets tied the game again, then Blackburn reclaimed the Devil lead, only to have Mark Jones connect from the arc for a Comet lead, 36-35.
The lead changed on the next three possessions before Allen was called for his fourth foul. He slapped the floor, mad at himself, and was called for a technical and his 5th foul with 12:00 left in the game.
Helmuth's technical free throw brought a 39-39-tie. Jones scored from distance again to establish a Comet lead that would extend to six points at the end of the 3rd period, 47-41.
A Warner triple and a Haddock three in the first minute of the 4th tied the score again, 47-47. Then Windsor took the lead on free throws from Cole and Nic Hutchinson, 50-47.
They stretched it to a 9-2 run with a step-back trey from Haddock and a Hutchinson splash from the arc with 3:20 left in the game, 56-49.
The Comets chipped away at the lead. Down 59-53, Fry drove the lane again and went down. He flipped the ball up towards the bucket and it had enough English on it to crawl up the rim and in with 1:49 left..
Fry scored again with a minute left to make it a 2-point game. Windsor missed 3-of-4 free throws, but had a 3-point lead with 40.2 seconds remaining.
With time running out for the Comets, Austin Rincker was left alone and he put up a 3. It scored and the game was tied, 60-60.
Windsor had two free throws with 12 seconds left, but both crawled out. Fry drove and missed, but Windsor traveled and gave the ball back with 1.0 second left. The desparation 3 missed and the game went to overtime.
Chandler Ballinger opened the OT with a free throw for the Comet lead. Haddock answered with yet another bomb from downtown. Warner drove for two and a 4-point lead, then stole the ball and took it in for a 67-61 Devil lead with 2:30 left.
Once again the Comets responded with a Ballinger 3-pointer. Ted Kessler made two free throws and it was a 1-point game with 1:54 to play, 67-66.
Fry was fouled by Warner on a miss and Warner fouled out. Windsor had lost their second ball handler for the offense and was in trouble.
Fry made both free throws and gave Stew-Stras the lead, 68-67. Helmuth drove and was fouled and made both of his free throws, 69-67 Comets with 57.6 seconds left.
Sophomore Mitchell Haddock had to bring the ball up and converted not on a 3, but driving to the hole, 70-69 Comets, with 35 seconds left.
In the last 30 seconds, the Comets missed two free throws and Windsor missed a 3. A rebound foul led to two more Comets free throws and the war of attrition was over, 72-69 Comets.
Stew-Stras finished the game with both their top offensive weapons, while Windsor lost one early and the other in the OT.
Senior Brandon Helmuth had a game-high 28 points for the Comets, with eight points in the 1stm a trio of treys in the 2nd, two twos and 3-of-4 free throws in the 3rd. Senior Jason Fry followed with 26 points, mostly from driving and 5-of-9 at the line with one trey.
Windsor was led by sophomore Tristan Warner with 23 points, with a foursome of twos, a triply of treys and 6-of-13 at the line. Senior Alex Allen fouled out in the 3rd with just nine points. Sophomore Mitchell Haddock stepped up and scored 16 points, stroking it from the corner with a game-high four 3-pointers.
Stew-Stras 72, Windsor 69 - OT
Stew stats: Brandon Helmuth 28 (7-2s, 3-3 pt FGs, 5/9 FTs), Jason Fry 26 (9-2s, 1-3 pt FGs, 5/9 FTs), Mark Jones 6 (2-3 pt FGs), Chandler Ballinger 4 (1-3 pt FG, 1/2 FTs), Austin Rincker 4 (1-3 pt FGs, 1/5 FTs), Ted Kessler 4 (FG, 2/2 FTs). Team FGs 25. 3-Pointers: 8 (Helmuth 3, Jones 2, Ballinger 1, Rincker 1, Fry 1). Team FTs 14-of-27.
Devil stats: Warner 23 (4-2s, 3-3 pt FGs, 6/13 FTs), Mitchell Haddock 16 (2-2s,, 4-3 pt FGs), Alex Allen 9 (3 FGs, 3/6 FTs), Spencer Blackburn 8 (3 FGs, 2/4 FTs), Hayden Cole 6 (2 FGs, 2/8 FTs), Nic Hutchinson 5 (1-3 pt FGs, 2/4 FTs), Rylan Ard 2 (FG, 0/1 FTs). Team FGs 23. 3-Pointers: 8 (Haddock 4, Warner 3, Hutchinson). Team FTs 15-of-36.