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North boys squeeze past Kapaun 42-40

Published Dec. 17 at 10:26 p.m. | Last updated Dec. 17 at 10:27 p.m.

Considering how well the defensive game plan worked, it was only fitting that North’s 42-40 win at Kapaun Mount Carmel on Tuesday night came down to one last stop.

With 5.7 seconds on the clock and trailing by two, Kapaun’s inbounds play in front of its own bench broke down. A buzzer-beating chance that appeared to be drawn up for leading scorer Thomas O’Connor instead fell to forward Nick Auer, whose last-second heave drew only a piece of the backboard.

It wasn’t the first time O’Connor was forced to watch Kapaun’s offense try to find a basket against a pesky Redskins defense. North senior guard Tarius Williams blanketed him in the first half, though O’Connor, who scored 26 in Kapaun’s lone win last week against South, managed nine points on three hurried catch-and-shoot three-pointers.

“I played with him in the summer, so I knew what to expect,” Williams said. “I just needed to keep fighting through screens. You can’t let him get the ball.”

North (1-3, 1-3 City League) took a commanding 20-9 first-quarter lead and maintained most of it for a seven-point advantage at halftime.

Williams took himself out of the game early in the third quarter due to what he said may have been food poisoning, but North’s larger plan to keep the ball out of O’Connor’s hands and limit offensive rebounds remained intact.

“Graeham Jarvis stepped up and did a good job defensively,” North coach Gary Squires said. “I thought we did a good job of on-the-ball defense.”

Despite trailing by 13 points in the second quarter, Kapaun (1-3, 1-3) erased it all in the second half. O’Connor, who finished with 11, was held to two points over the final two quarters, but junior Atir Cherne scored the game’s first seven points coming out of halftime. His layup in traffic four minutes into the third quarter capped the run, drew a key fourth foul on Graeham and tied the game at 30.

Visions of North’s previous losses, including a heartbreaker to Heights last week, bubbled up again as Kapaun took a 38-37 lead in the fourth quarter on O’Connor’s only basket of the half.

But the leadership Squires had been seeking ever since City League career scoring leader Connor Frankamp graduated last season finally arrived.

“Tarius stepped up there late in the game,” Squires said. “We knew we’ve had to learn how to keep that lead, and we finally finished a game.”

Williams, who put himself back into the game despite the stomach issues, hit the front-end of a one-and-one with 10 seconds left before Kapaun missed its final chance to steal the win.

“I had to go back in,” Williams said. “Maybe it was something I ate. I don’t know. I just know I couldn’t take another loss.”

The victory was North’s first. Williams and fellow guard Zach Beard scored 12 points each. O’Connor and Cherne each had 11 for Kapaun.

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North: Z. Beard 12, T. Villa 6, T. Williams 12, J. Bogle 4, G. Jarvis 2, S. Bernard 6.

Kapaun: D. Dempsey 5, P. Patton 6, T. O’Connor 11, B. Monty 3, Atir Cherne 11, Hickerson 4.