After beating East Aurora 56-45 earlier in the season, the host Bartlett boys basketball team didn't expect to trail nearly the entire game in the rematch Saturday.
That's just what the Hawks faced, but a solid defensive effort in the fourth quarter helped spark a rally which ended in a 45-42 Bartlett win over the Tomcats (2-19, 1-8) in Upstate Eight Valley Division play.
The Hawks (11-12, 3-6) trailed 20-12 at halftime, faced as great as a 13-point deficit in the third quarter and trailed 36-25 heading into the fourth, but Bartlett forced 9 turnovers in the final period and Jonathan Leigeber (12 points, 5 rebounds) scored the final 10 points of the game to complete the rally.
"We definitely played better defense in the fourth quarter, and I think their inexperience showed down the stretch," said Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith. "We hustled and played with heart."
Trailing 42-35 with 2:54 left on the clock, Leigeber hit a 3-pointer off a Billy Kramer (5 rebounds) assist. Kramer then had a steal to set up a second straight 3 for Leigeber off a Lorenzo Mitchell (8 rebounds) assist to pull the Hawks to 42-41 with 2:04 left.
"I knew I had to keep shooting," Leigeber said. "After I hit the first one I knew the next was going to fall. We know we're a good team, and we showed it down the stretch."
Leigeber had a steal on the inbound and was fouled and after hitting both from the line, with 1:34 remaining, Bartlett had its first lead of the game at 43-42.
The Tomcats ran down the clock and had a chance on a shot, but Laquan Brown's attempt missed and Mitchell came down with the rebound. Leigeber then completed the scoring with a layup.
"(Bartlett) finally stepped up and hit their shots," said Tomcats coach Wendell Jeffries. "After that, we just didn't step up. We need somebody to step up and want the ball down the stretch."
Tyree Willis tallied 10 points, Tyrone Savage 8 and DeJon Talbert 7 to lead East Aurora.
Matt Chaltin tallied a game-high 20 points for Bartlett. Chaltin tallied 8 of the Hawks' 12 first-half points and added 8 more in the third including a pair of treys.
"This is definitely a confidence boost," Chaltin said. "Definitely a game we needed going down the stretch and into the postseason."