By John DeCoste
If play on Jan. 8 is any indication, there could be some heated competition among Valley D-2 boys’ basketball teams en route to the regional banner.
Central Kings took a 5-0 record in league play into its home game against Northeast Kings, but NKEC brought its ‘A’ game to the gym and narrowly missed stealing the decision, falling one point short in a 67-66 Gators’ victory.
Playing without starting point guard Dylan Poole, Central Kings took double-digit leads at least twice, but both times, the Titans successfully fought back.
Central Kings led 21-19 after one quarter and 40-29 at halftime, but the Gators’ shooting went cold in the third quarter, allowing NKEC to negate the 11-point halftime deficit and take a 54-51 lead after three quarters.
After a back-and-forth fourth quarter in which the lead changed hands at least twice, NKEC clung to a 65-63 lead with a minute left in regulation time.
The Gators, however, dug deep, and a pair of clutch baskets by Kurt Getson - the second with just seven seconds remaining - allowed CK to prevail on its home court and pull out the 67-66 victory.
The Titans had a shot to win in the final seconds, but Dre Medicraft’s hurried attempt was off the mark.
Trent Oickle led Central Kings with 21 points, including a trio of three-pointers. Nigel Simmons added 17 points, Getson 11 and Joe Canavan seven.
For NKEC, Medicraft finished with a game-high 23 points without a three-pointer. Logan MacKinley had 16 of his 22 points – a total that included six threes – in the second half. Greg MacDonald added 10 for the Titans and Liam Russell seven.
The two teams didn’t have to wait long for a rematch either, as they were scheduled to meet each other in the opening game of this past weekend’s Gator Basketball Festival, also in Cambridge.