FAIRMOUNT — The chair normally occupied by late Madison-Grant assistant coach Kyle Guenther was left empty Friday night, save for the flowers deposited on the seat by the players who loved him so much, and it will remain so for the remainder of the season.
One cannot help but assume, wherever he was sitting, he was smiling down on the Argylls on Friday night, especially during a spirited second-half comeback.
Junior Grant Brown stuffed the stat sheet, and his teammates got their emotions under control in the second half to make big play after big play as the Argylls overcame a double-digit deficit to knock off Alexandria 66-59.
Their last game was two weeks ago after their date with Taylor was postponed a week ago following Guenther’s passing. M-G coach Brian Trout was not sure what to expect from his kids, who were taking the court just hours after the memorial service.
“You don’t know when they’re in a good frame of mind how they’re going to come out and play,” Trout said. “They’re high school kids. There are so many things that can affect the attitude coming into the game.”
The Argylls may have been a little too amped up on energy early. After a tight first quarter, the M-G shots stopped falling, and Alexandria (10-9) took advantage. The Tigers went on a pair of 7-0 runs in the second period and on a buzzer-beating drive to the basket by Kole Stewart took a commanding 36-23 lead into halftime.
“We talked at halftime about the things we needed to do,” Trout said. “We were getting some pretty good shots, but then we started to settle a little bit. When you settle, you don’t make them because they aren’t good shots.”
The comeback began after senior Nick Williams gave the Tigers a 40-29 lead but was whistled for a technical foul as the teams started back up the court.
M-G junior Kaden Howell hit one of the two technical free throws, and Lance Wilson hit an elbow jumper on the ensuing possession. After a Tigers miss, Jackson Manwell buried a triple for the Argylls, and suddenly they were within five.
Trout did not think the technical turned momentum.
“Not really, I wouldn’t have pointed at that,” Trout said. “I just think our energy was better in the second half.”
That statement applied to nobody more than to Brown.
After being held to just three points in the first half, Brown scored five straight points before Manwell hit another 3 to close out the third quarter. Madison-Grant (9-8) outscored the Tigers 24-9 in the period to take the lead into the fourth.
Brown said he needed to settle in.
“We haven’t played in a while, and we were trying to get things going with our emotions all over the place,” he said. “We were trying to find a rhythm again, and we did that in the second half. We just went into the locker room and became mentally tough. I told the guys we had to do this for Coach Guenther. And we did it together.”
A Williams three-point play and a basket by Rylan Metz gave the lead back to Alex at 50-49, but Justin Moore answered before Seth Lugar knocked down a 3 — on one of Brown’s seven assists — to give the Argylls the lead for good at 54-50.
M-G hit seven of eight free throws, including 5-of-6 from Brown, in the closing seconds to seal the victory.
Brown finished an emotional night with 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, five steals and a block.
When he checked out of the game, he hugged Coach Trout who told him he loved him and spoke with the Guenther family in the stands.
“I just told them I did it all for him,” Brown said.
Howell matched Brown with 15 points while Moore scored 11 and Lugar added 10 for the Argylls. The Tigers were led by Morehead with 15 points, Williams posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Cade Vernetti and Stewart scored 11 each.
“I just told every one of them that I loved them,” Trout said of his players. “Unbelievable tonight.”
The Tigers took the junior varsity contest over the Argylls 50-48 behind 14 points from junior Brayden Jacobs. Junior Zach Pretorius scored 15 for the Argylls to lead all players.