Battles waged last week paid dividends Friday night at Roncalli Gym.
Fresh off three nail-biting contests, Aberdeen Roncalli found itself in another fight to the finish against Britton-Hecla before prevailing 61-59 in Northeast Conference boys' basketball action.
Senior Ross Barton scored 10 fourth-quarter points, including the game-winning free throws with 5 seconds remaining.
My confidence level keeps going up when I keep shooting free throws, said Barton, who just last week made two pressure-packed free throws with 4.6 seconds remaining to force overtime in a win over Pine Ridge. Coach has confidence in me and my team has confidence in me and that's what really does it for me.
The Braves did have one last chance and went for the win, but missed a three-point shot at the buzzer.
That's one of the options we drew up. We can't complain about that, said Britton-Hecla assistant coach Brian Rabenberg. We were going for the win. We got a good shooter taking a good shot.
The game was tight throughout with Roncalli eventually taking a nine-point lead in the third quarter. However, the Braves hung tough and eventually kept chipping away at the margin in the final period.
In the end, the visitors simply had no answers for Barton, Roncalli's lone senior starter.
We ran it right through Ross. His option was to catch it at the elbow and it was all about him, said Roncalli coach Todd Neuendorf. We were clearing out a side for him and letting him take his man to the basket.
While Barton led all scorers with 23 points, he was quick to deflect the spotlight after the win.
I can't credit my team enough, Barton said. They brought us back into it. It didn't come down to the last free throws. It was throughout the whole game.
Roncalli has had two overtime games and two contests decided by two points in its last four games. Barton said that played a role against the Braves.
It's making our guys grow up, he said. We have a freshman guard, Brayden McNeary, he hit three three's right out of the half. That's huge for us.
Britton-Hecla made a strong showing after back-to-back losses to start out the week.
We always say that when you play Roncalli you come with a different mindset, Rabenberg noted. We were a little disappointed with our effort Tuesday and Thursday, but there was no doubt about our effort tonight.
Neuendorf was not surprised that the Braves put up a tough fight.
We know that they're capable of that. This is the team everyone expected Britton to be, Neuendorf said. They're a handful. They're going to beat a lot of teams.
Dallas Goedert finished with 20 points, including a pair of slam dunks, to power Britton-Hecla. Jacob Wegleitner followed with 17 points and Chris Nickeson contributed 13.
Kory Schwan tossed in 12 points and McNeary added 11 for Roncalli, which won its 24th straight game at home.
It's an NEC game, Neuendorf said. This is what the NEC is about, good basketball teams.