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Adam Montsma (click for larger version)
February 23, 2013 | 09:53 PMMILWAUKEE - The playoffs haven't been kind to the Faith Christian boys basketball team.
Coach Brian Pollard's teams lost seven previous trips to the regional finals, including three two-point defeats. It has been gut-wrenching to say the least.
Saturday night marked another opportunity for the Eagles to finally reach the WIAA sectionals for the first time in school history, and it looked like a sure thing for about 26 minutes.
In a Division 5 regional final against Milwaukee Academy of Science at Alverno College, Faith Christian squandered a six-point fourth-quarter lead in the final minutes of a 56-54 defeat.
The Eagles finished the season 21-4, and Milwaukee improved to 16-8.
With the game tied at 54-54 with 20 seconds left, the smallest athlete on the court, Science's 5-foot-4 point guard Ladell Hickman, knifed through the heart of the Faith defense and floated a layup over the outstretched arms of Faith's Alex Montsma to make it 56-54.
After a Faith timeout with 11.9 seconds left, Pollard drew up a play to either have Alex Montsma shoot a triple for the win or have Adam Montsma go to the hoop for the tie. Adam Montsma, who recently missed eight days of school with the flu and played at less than 100 percent, attempted a step-back, 15-foot jumper with 1 second remaining, but his shot was blocked and time ran out.
Faith led nearly the entire game, with a 29-23 advantage at halftime and a 46-41 lead after three quarters. After Jared Mulder's 3-pointer put Faith up, 49-43, with six minutes to play, the Novas took over, finishing the game on a 13-5 run.
Hickman, who Pollard game-planned to stop, was just too much down the stretch. He scored the Novas' final 10 points, including an improbable 25-foot 3-pointer to tie the game at 52-52 with three minutes to play.
"Hickman really hurt us," Pollard said.
Two more free throws gave the Novas a 54-52 lead with 54.5 seconds to play, but Alex Montsma, who led all scorers with 24 points, tied the game with two clutch foul shots.
In the final four minutes, Faith Christian committed four costly turnovers and missed several key shots from close range.
"The guys played their hearts out," Pollard said. "I'm really proud of them. But the ball didn't bounce our way. We couldn't hit key shots in the final three minutes. Alex (Montsma) played a great game and played every position. Adam gutted it out but just lost his energy in the fourth quarter."
Pollard said Jake Alldredge did a great job of containing Hickman before fouling out. Also, he commended Joe Ingersoll, who held Science's leading scorer, Juafonyay Lyte, to 10 points. Ingersoll tallied 14 points and controlled the paint.
"We showed a lot of character," Pollard said. "We did a great job of keeping our composure and representing who we are."
Faith players sobbed in disappointment after the game. Parents and fans alike gave the Eagles a round of applause after the players returned from the locker room. But this one stings.
"I wish we could've won that game," said Alex Montsma. "It was such a close one."
Adam Montsma played through sickness and finished with 10 points, well below his season average of 27.6 points per game. It was his first significant action in the postseason after missing the previous two games.
In the last two years, Faith Christian compiled a 45-5 record. The Montsmas and Alldredge played in their last games as Eagles.
Other area scores
Boys basketball regional finals
Janesville Craig 59, Burlington 48
Wilmot 47, Waterford 40
East Troy 61, Kettle Moraine Lutheran 41
Racine Lutheran 52, Burlington Catholic Central 36