As it inched closer to full strength, the Bishop Grimes boys basketball team used an inspired rally to climb back above the .500 mark.
Anthony Bielak's driving lay-up with seven seconds left helped push the Cobras to a 66-64 victory over the Marcellus Mustangs last Wednesday night -- this after trailing by nine with less than three minutes left.
Despite the comeback, Grimes was not safe until it saw Wes Hoy's possible game-winning 3-pointer from the right corner bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
The team was quite happy to have Eric Ball back in the lineup after he missed the Cobras' loss to Faith Heritage on Dec. 15 due to illness. Wearing a cast, Kevin Cartini also returned after breaking his finger.
Together, this duo, along with center Frank Majka, helped Grimes navigate through a back-and-forth first half and go to the break nursing a 34-29 lead.
Then it all vanished, as Marcellus kept stealing Grimes passes to produce easy baskets as it began the third quarter by scoring 15 unanswered points.
Absorbing it all, Grimes answered with a 9-0 run, only to see that deficit rise back to 62-53 with less than three minutes to play as Mustang guards John Kermes (18 points), Kevin Merriman and Will Fiacchi (14 points each) seemed to have put the game away.
Grimes stayed aggressive, though, and watched as Ball, Bielak and Majka all convert on three-point plays to pull the team within two, then saw Majka sink two free throws to tie it, 66-64, with less than two minutes left.
Saving its best defensive stand for the end, the Cobras forced Hoy into a bad shot and grabbed the rebound, eventually calling a time-out.
Head coach Jamie Evans inserted the same play that didn't work in the last seconds against Westhill on Dec. 8 -- Majka and Ball drawing all the attention, allowing Bielak a chance to drive the baseline. Sure enough, Bielak found his lane -- and this time, the shot was true.
Majka had 24 points, 10 of them from free throws. Ball, despite not starting, still put up 19 points, while Bielak had 13 points.