The Washington Hatchets will head into next week's sectional with the momentum of a two-game winning streak by virtue of a thrilling 52-51 win over Evansville Memorial at the Hatchet House Friday.
While Washington (9-11) controlled the better part of the game against Memorial (9-11), the Hatchets were also fortunate to a degree on Senior Night. After seeing all of a 48-40 lead with 3:14 to play disappear, the Hatchets found themselves trailing 51-50 when the Tigers' Brandon Auker hit the second of two free throws with :21 to play.
On Washington's ensuing possession, Cullen Arnold, who led all scorers with 18 points, was fouled in the act with 3.6 seconds left. Arnold hit the second of his charity tosses to tie the game, but on the inbounds play, Memorial¹s Ben Stachowski got wide open behind the Hatchet defense at the other end of the court.
Stachowski, however, not only didn't handle the court length pass cleanly, but he inexplicably fouled Washington¹s Andy Garland, who took the ball away from Stachowski, with :0.7 of a second on the clock. Garland hit the first of his free tosses before missing the second, but Memorial's desperation heave banged off the front of the rim as time expired to give the Hatchets the win.
While the Memorial coaching staff and fans were incensed by the call against Stachowski, Washington coach Gene Miiller thought the call was made correctly.
"That last play, I don't think there was any doubt on that last call. I think he definitely fouled him," said Miiller. "I don't know why you would do that with 0.7 left, with time running out. But he definitely did, and we'll take it, we'll take a win anyway we can." Despite four fourth quarter turnovers which helped the Tigers climb back into the game, Washington played well.
The Hatchets shot 53 percent from the field and out rebounded Memorial 25-19.
In addition to his 18 points, Arnold added nine rebounds and three assists in his final regular season home game wearing the black and gold. The other senior on the Hatchet roster, Cody Milligan, finished with two points, four rebounds, and three assists.
Colton Garland added 13 points and five boards, while Andy Garland netted eight points and Jake Bedwell contributed five points. Austin Ghirardelli scored four points, and Jake Brashear added a pair of key fourth quarter free throws for two points.
Tyler Stoll and Jarrod Purdue both provided solid minutes for WHS.
Miiller credited the play of Ghirardelli, who made his second straight start of the season, in addition to Milligan and Arnold.
"I think Ghirardelli has helped us, he's stepped in there and solidified some things for us. He's been a good defensive player, and he talks, he communicates for us out there," said Miiller. "I thought Cody Milligan had a nice ballgame for us tonight and played really well last week as well.
"I thought Cullen was big for us on the boards tonight and scored for us," said Miiller. "That's what he has to do for us, play big inside." Auker led Memorial with 18 points, followed by 17 from Adam Eberhard.
Washington played well in the first half, shooting over 50 percent (12-22) from the field and taking advantage of 10 Memorial turnovers to forge a 26-20 lead at the break. Arnold led WHS with eight points in the first half, which saw the Hatchets trail 14-11 after one quarter but outscore the Tigers 15-6 in the second stanza. Washington maintained a 39-34 lead after three quarters of play.
Coach Kyle Cornelius' JV Hatchets finished the campaign with eight straight wins and an 11-9 record thanks to a 44-43 win. Connor Brown' 15 points led WHS, including a 3-pointer in the waning seconds which gave the Hatchets the lead for good.
The Hatchets will return to action on Friday when WHS will face the winner of Tuesday's Vincennes Lincoln-Pike Central opening round sectional game.