Late in the fourth quarter of last night's boys nondistrict game between West Springfield and Mount Vernon, the lights over the court inexplicably went out. What happened to Mount Vernon after that was an even bigger mystery.
After a 15-minute delay, Mount Vernon, which had been dominant to that point, suddenly blew a nine-point lead but regrouped in time to hold on for a 53-50 victory.
The game was not sealed until West Springfield sophomore Jeff Evans narrowly missed connecting on a desperate three-point attempt at the buzzer.
Mount Vernon (2-1) was led by sophomore guard Ryan Hughes (20 points) and senior forward Kelvin Coggins (nine points). West Springfield, which was led by Evans (16 points) and Andy Luetkemeier (14), fell to 1-2.
"I can't explain what happened. All I can say is I'm disappointed the game was that close," said Coggins, who also is the quarterback of Mount Vernon's football team. "It should have never some to that. There's no excuses."
Mount Vernon Coach Bryan Hill believed that the blackout may have had something to do with his team's slump over the final three minutes of the game, but he also pointed to his team's inexperience. The Majors lost four of last year's starters to graduation.
"That long break kind of offset things," Hill said of the blackout. "But [letting West Springfield back into the game] goes to show that we have a lot to learn. We can't take anything away from West Springfield did tonight, either. They played a fantastic game down the stretch."
Before the lights went out, Mount Vernon, led by its swarming defense, had controlled every facet of the game, opening a lead of 18 points.
But after the delay, which occurred at 3 minutes 10 seconds of the fourth quarter, the Mount Vernon sharpshooters suddenly lost their touch and players down low began turning over the ball as West Springfield began to counter with some defensive pressure of its own.
The Mount Vernon lead dwindled slowly over the final minutes. With 22 seconds remaining, the Spartans trailed, 50-48, after a backdoor layup by Evans. Mount Vernon's Michael McDaniel was fouled on the next possession and the junior forward sank both free throws to extend the lead to 52-48.
But West Springfield came right back on a turnaround jumper by Luetkemeier to cut the Mount Vernon advantage to 52-50. The teams traded timeouts before Mount Vernon's Chris Malufau was fouled on the inbounds pass. Maluau made one of his two free throws to stretch the Majors lead to 53-50 with 7.2 seconds left.
West Springfield's final hope was Evans's long three-point attempt at the buzzer, but his shot rimmed out.
"That last free throw was very important but it almost wasn't enough," Malufau said. "My heart stopped when he took that three pointer."