It was freezing outside and Bishop McCort’s Nathan Neiderhiser showed that he had ice in his veins Friday night against Somerset.
With his team trailing by three, Neiderhiser was fouled from beyond the arc as time wound down. The senior guard calmly stepped to the line with .2 seconds on the clock and sank the three free throws to tie the game at 56.
In the overtime, the host Crimson Crushers outscored the youthful Golden Eagles 12-7 to come the whole way back from a 20-point halftime deficit and earn a 68-63 victory.
“That was huge for Nate to hit those free throws,” Bishop McCort coach Jerry Murphy said. “He just stepped up and knocked them down. We’ve been looking for senior leadership and we’re starting to see it.
“You always hope that your kids will respond like that to being down, but you never know until they are in that situation. Our kids played so hard and I was so proud of them from top to bottom. Every kid that we brought off the bench worked really hard and did the little things, and those little things made the difference.”
Neiderhiser finished with 15 points, all in the second half and 11 in the fourth quarter. Senior Nemo Trexler topped the McCort scoring with 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while senior teammate Tyler Rugg supplied 11 points.
Somerset’s Connor Zarefoss, the lone senior starter for the Eagles, scored a game-high 23 points, including six 3-pointers, while Jake Heiple added 18 points.
“Connor Zarefoss had a great first half for us,” Somerset coach Scott Close said. “Everybody was getting the ball where it needed to go and we got some good open backcourt cuts and hit the layups. Some of those layups we missed in the second half.”
It was all Golden Eagles (4-5) in the first half as Somerset trailed just once, 4-2, early in the first quarter.
The visitors led 19-12 after the first and outscored the Crushers (4-2) 22-9 in the second quarter for a 41-21 halftime lead.
“I told the kids at the half that they were pushing us around, which they were,” Murphy said about Somerset. “I told them that if we didn’t start playing defense that we were going to lose by 40 on our home floor. Our kids showed a lot of character tonight.”
Somerset took its biggest lead of the game, 43-21, on a Heiple basket to open the third.
But the Crushers refused to go away, forcing numerous Somerset turnovers and turning them into points on the other end of the floor, pulling to 49-34 after three quarters.
In the fourth, Bishop McCort kept inching closer, getting to within two, 55-53 with 45.8 seconds remaining in regulation.
Freshman George Coyle, who finished with eight points, hit 1 of 2 free throws to put Somerset up by 3 with 23.3 seconds left.
Neiderhiser appeared to hit the equalizer on a 3-point shot with 4.3 seconds left, but it
didn’t count because time was called, setting up the final sequence of events.
“Obviously we have to take care of our own business and we didn’t,” said Close, who had three of his players foul out in the overtime. “We left a lot of free throws (14 of 24) out there and we’re normally a good free-throw shooting team. Take nothing from McCort, they continued to play all-game long. We didn’t believe how good we actually were. I think we surprised ourselves with how big of a lead we had.
“This is something that we will learn from. It’s a painful lesson and you hope they will learn from it and get better.”
“Somerset played hard, they are young and they can shoot and play defense,” Murphy said. “We just really got some breaks our way the second half, but we played defense really hard that made some breaks for us.”