Fast start, strong finish send Raiders past Missiles
Gendusa, Gittleson provide heroics
AFC and Milledgeville had their third dogfight of the season Monday, and the Raiders got the all-important postseason rubber match.
Matt Gendusa scored 19 points to lead AFC to a 61-57 win in the NUIC East rivals' first-round Class 1A Polo Regional matchup.
Troy Mairs was the hero in the Raiders' overtime win on Feb. 9 at Millegeville, pouring in 33 points. Mairs had eight Monday. This time, Gendusa had the heroics, hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter to kick-start AFC (10-16).
"Graye Freeman and Matt Gendusa got us off," Raiders coach Russ Zick said. "They beat us by five at our place. It's two very equal teams. We did a better job on Jordan Harris this time."
Freeman scored all of his nine points in the first half.
With AFC up 55-53 in the final moments, Bret Gittleson, who scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, scored on a backdoor play. The Missiles (8-18) pulled within a point, 57-56, making one of two free throws and getting a rebound putback on the miss.
After Gendusa two free throws, Milledgeville again made one of two free throws and the second attempt miss went out of bounds off AFC. Harris, who scored six points, then missed a would-be go-ahead 3-pointer.
Gittleson made one of two free throws to make it 60-57. Milledgeville tried a long pass, but Gittleson intercepted and again made one of two free throws with just 1.7 seconds left. The Missiles' desperation heave was well off the mark.
"We had our chances," said Milledgeville coach Brian Rahn, whose seniors had their best mark ever. "We missed some free throws. We ran a couple set plays and got the shots we wanted, but didn't hit them. And, we did not get the big stops we needed. We were focusing on Mairs, but they had other guys step up and knock down shots. It's kind of like pick your poison."
Kaleb Ebersole led the Missiles with 17 points. Caleb Skoog added 14 and Kameron DawTyne 12 to go along with 10 rebounds.
AFC jumped in front 8-0 and led 16-10 after one quarter. Milledgeville came back to lead 31-30 at the half. The Raiders led 45-44 after three quarters.
Star of the game: Matt Gendusa, AFC, game-high 19 points, 3 3-pointers in 1st quarter
Key performers: Kaleb Ebersole, Milledgeville, 17 points; Caleb Skoog, Milldgeville, 14 points; Bret Gittleson, AFC, 11 points, 9 in 4th quarter
Up next: Class 1A Polo Regional semifinal, AFC vs. Eastland, 6 p.m. Wednesday