In a game delayed an hour because the Ballou team's bus broke down, the Knights put up a gallant effort before bowing to Coolidge, 57-53, last night at Colt Field House.
Coolidge (11-4) was led by senior guard Kobie Taylor (14 points) and 6-foot-5 senior forward John Stuckey (11). Ballou (7-3) was paced by Charles Mahdi (15 points) and Marc Dozier (14).
Ballou, which had won its previous five, hurt itself at the free throw line, making only four of 14.
The Colts, who took a 29-26 halftime lead, appeared to be on their way to an easy victory when they opened a 42-35 margin with 1:12 left in the third quarter. But Ballou, behind a jumper and two free throws by Mahdi, closed the gap to 42-39 entering the fourth quarter.
Over the next four minutes Ballou turned up the heat with its pressure defense and held the Colts to a single field goal and a foul shot while outscoring the Colts 9-3 to take a 48-45 lead 3:28 left.
"When they went up on us, I told the kids that we really don't want to lose any more games," said Coolidge Coach Jerell Robinson. "We had to reach back and get some pride, because we were at home."
After a timeout, Dimingus Bundy (nine points) made two free throws to pull the Colts within 48-47 with 2:13 left.
Mahdi hit one of two foul shots to give the Knights a two-point lead. Stuckey stole the ball at midcourt and fed Bundy to give Coolidge the lead and, after another Ballou turnover, Lawrence House scored on a layup to give the Colts some breathing room at 53-49.
"I never doubted that we would win the game," said Stuckey. "Because the game isn't over until the buzzer sounds. If we play together, like I know we can, I know we'll win.
"Waiting for them to come took some of our intensity away from us. We started to get kind of down and it took us a while to get started."
"It was an unfortunate situation with the bus breaking down," said Ballou Coach Wanda Oates. "We were cold and wet when we entered the gym and were kind of rushed.
"It was just one game and we are going to be there in the end."