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Lions survive Patriots’ late push

Use ‘game of spurts,’ to outlast being outdone in final 3:15

LEO-CEDARVILLE – You couldn’t exactly call it a dagger three, coming as it did at the end of the first half against an opponent that was a long way from finished. But it sure did a fair imitation.

Leo sophomore David Hardin jacked it from somewhere east of Grabill a tick in front of the buzzer, a flat-trajectory sling that stuck its tongue out at physics and exploded through the net. And off the Lions went with a 15-point lead over ACAC rival Heritage that, in the end, they would need every bit of it to secure an 81-75 victory Friday night.

It was that way from the moment Hardin flushed his first three 32 seconds into the game, launching Leo (2-0) on an 8-2 run to start and Hardin on a 27-point night.

“Yeah, he had a good game for us,” Leo coach Cary Cogdell said. “There’s some things he could get better at obviously, but he’s had a good start to his sophomore year.”

Leo, on the other hand, thrived mainly on finishes.

A 10-2 to burst to end the first quarter vaulted the Lions to their first double-digit lead, 22-12. And after Heritage (0-3) closed to within 26-24 on a pair of free throws by Nate Scheumann with 4:06 to play in the second, the Lions took off again, outscoring Heritage 18-6 across the last three minutes to go in at halftime on the fat end of 47-32.

It was more of the same in the third quarter, when Heritage again got close – this time 50-46 with 3:08 showing – and the Lions again answered, this time finishing the quarter with an 8-2 burst to go into the fourth quarter up 58-48.

They needed every bit of that cushion in the fourth quarter, as the Patriots, who were gifted with 26 turnovers from a Leo team that never stops going end to end, outscored the Lions 14-7 in the last 3:15 to turn a double-digit rout into an almost nail-biter.

Zac Toles led the charge with 17 points for the Patriots, who forced the Lions to practice what they preach.

“Our motto is ‘all-in,’ ” said Leo forward A.J. Busche, who backed Hardin with 16 points. “So that’s what we do every game, every play, every practice. And we’ll keep doing that.”

Good thing, Cogdell figured.

“The way we play, it’s a game of spurts all game long,” he said. “You just have to find a way if you’re playing us to weather it. And we have to weather it as well based on how they’re playing.”

bensmith@jg.net

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