Free throws push Spartans past Grimes

Arnela Mesic had no time to think, just dribble up the court and see if she could produce a play in the waning seconds of the East Syracuse-Minoa girls basketball team's showdown with Bishop Grimes last Saturday afternoon.

And when she got fouled on her way to the basket with 3.6 seconds left, Mesic didn't pause to consider the importance of her free throws. She just made them, and it led to the Spartans earning an exciting 49-48 victory over the Cobras.

This culminated a heroic and tenacious effort on ESM's part. Down by as much as 10 early and by nine at halftime, it kept coming back, then kept its poise after Grimes made its own heart-stopping rally as time wound down.

It all began with the Cobras trying to end the competition early, bolting to a 14-4 lead. ESM caught up in the second quarter at 19-19, but Grimes, led by Tenley Pitonzo (13 first-half points), closed the half on an 8-0 run and had a 30-21 lead going to the break.

ESM then started to apply full-court pressure in the third quarter, and it translated to success on the other end as it reeled off a 12-0 run to take the lead. The Cobras would shake off the drought and tie it, 40-40, going to the final period.

Then the Spartans engaged in another long shutdown, this one taking more than five minutes, yet could not extend its lead past five, 45-40, giving Grimes one more chance to rally.

With 24.3 seconds left and down 47-45, Pitonzo made a free throw, cutting the margin to one. Then the Cobras stole the inbounds pass and got it to Amanda Marcely, who hit a lay-up with 8.2 seconds to play and was fouled.

Now Grimes led, 48-47, but when Marcely missed the free throw, ESM had a chance to win. Not taking a time-out, the Spartans got it to Mesic, and as she drove to the basket, Mesic got fouled.

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