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By ROB JONAS

 

SCHENECTADY – Gregory Van Epps had a difficult time finding his shot, but he found it at the right time.

 

The senior guard drained the go-ahead three-pointer with 12 seconds left to lift Mohonasen to a 76-74 Suburban Council victory over Schenectady Friday, January 26, at the Pat Riley Center.

 

“I just believed in myself and let it fall,” said Van Epps.

 

Mohonasen coach Josh Peck said the play was initially designed to have one of his forwards crash the basket, with Van Epps as the second option. Jalani Abdul-Aziz had the ball on the baseline, but he passed it to Van Epps, who drained the three-pointer from the top of the key.

 

“It wouldn't have been set up without Jalani making that pass,” said Van Epps.

 

Schenectady (4-9) had a chance to win the game in the final five seconds, but Jay-Quan Johnson's three-pointer bounced off the rim.

 

“I wish he had that shot at the end. He deserved to have that shot go in,” Schenectady coach John Miller said of Johnson, who led all scorers with 24 points.

 

Van Epps scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter to help Mohonasen (8-6) complete an epic comeback against a determined Schenectady squad. The Mighty Warriors trailed by 14 points at halftime and by eight points early in the fourth quarter before rallying for only their second win in their last six games.

 

“There's no quit in these guys,” said Peck. “We're learning how to be unselfish with the ball, and it showed tonight.”

 

Schenectady looked like it was on its way to breaking its four-game losing streak in the first half. A pair of 11-2 runs – one to start the game, and the other in the second quarter – helped the Patriots jump out to a 41-27 halftime lead.

 

“I thought that was our most complete half of the season,” said Miller. “We made all of our free throws, we made all but two of our three-pointers and we did a great job of finding our man on defense.”

 

Schenectady was especially effective at shutting down Mohonasen's leading scorer, Duncan Tallman, in the first half. First, the Patriots made Tallman give up the ball by double teaming the junior guard. Then, they took the ball at Tallman, which forced him to commit a couple of quick fouls late in the first quarter. Tallman watched the rest of the first half from the Mohonasen bench.

 

Without Tallman on the floor, Schenectady was able to take the rest of Mohonasen's offense out of its rhythm. Johnson capped a 9-0 second-quarter run with a fast break layup and a pair of foul shots to put the Patriots ahead 36-21. Tyrone Pettway added a three-pointer just before halftime to give Schenectady its 41-27 advantage.

 

“You can't simulate their quickness in practice,” said Peck. “When they got us in their man or in that zone (defense), we just got stuck.”

 

Everything changed at the start of the third quarter, though. A series of unforced Schenectady errors and a pair of three-pointers from Tallman cut the Patriots' lead to 41-36, and the Mohonasen comeback was on. Tallman scored 11 of his 13 points in the third quarter to spark the Mighty Warriors' offense.

 

“If you give him an inch, he'll make you pay for it,” said Miller.

 

Schenectady tried to keep a safe distance from Mohonasen. Every time the Mighty Warriors got within a possession of tying the score, the Patriots got a key basket from Johnson, Elijah Jensen or Cameron Coles to make it a two-possession game.

 

Gradually, though, Mohonasen clawed its way back until the Mighty Warriors tied the score at 70-70 on Avery Deas' three-point play with 3:17 left in the fourth quarter. Deas then put Mohonasen in front for the first time all night by making one of two foul shots with 2:03 remaining.

 

Johnson promptly put Schenectady back in the lead by draining a pair of free throws after getting fouled on a drive to the basket. A driving layup by Coles with 1:03 left in regulation gave the Patriots a 74-71 advantage.

 

Mohonasen took control from there. A basket down low by Deas trimmed Schenectady's lead to one point. The Patriots recovered from a pair of turnovers by blocking Mohonasen's layup attempts to keep the score at 74-73, but they couldn't get a hand on Van Epps' three-pointer.

 

Deas led four Mohonasen players in double figures with 18 points. Chase Monroe came off the bench and scored 14 points, while Tallman and Van Epps each added 13 points.

 

Besides Johnson's 24-point effort, Schenectady received 17 points from Coles in a reserve role, and Johnsen made four three-pointers on his way to a 13-point night.

 

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