Down the stretch in a close game, the advantage usually lies with the team that possesses the most experience handling that kind of pressure.
Such was the case Friday night at Antioch, where Grant scored 10 of the final 12 points to prevail 52-47 in a highly physical and foul-plagued North Suburban Prairie Division game. It marked the third consecutive win for the Bulldogs (5-4, 1-2), who have won two overtime contests this season and dropped a pair of 1-point decisions.
"It absolutely helped that we've played in a number of close games this season," said Grant coach Wayne Bosworth. "We're young and inexperienced, but we're getting experience very quickly with the close games. Come January and February, we're going to make better decisions in the games that are close down the stretch."
Antioch (1-7, 0-3), on the other hand, has played in very few tight games this season.
"We've only been in two close games this year and we just don't have the confidence yet that we're going to pull out games like that," said Sequoits coach Jim White. "But we only committed 9 turnovers tonight, which is 10 below our average, and that makes the game fun."
Grant junior forward Steve Dunning scored 8 of his game-high 15 points in the fourth quarter, including 6 free throws. The Bulldogs also received 14 points from senior forward Tom Blanchette and 9 from junior guard Francisco Uribe off the bench.
After the first 2½ minutes, it didn't look like this game would be close at all. The Sequoits came charging out of the gate, scoring the first 13 points, including 6 by senior guard Anthony Formella and 5 by senior guard Tyler Innis. Formella finished with 14 points, while teammates Innis and junior guard Anthony Marsiglio wound up with 9 each.
"Even when we were down 13-0, I knew we could come back," Blanchette said. "We knew we were better than that."
"We kept our composure," Dunning added. "In the fourth quarter, we kept posting up down low and they kept fouling and I kept going to the line."
White said his team's fast start was one of the game's highlights.
"We're very young and so we're trying to instill some confidence in our guys," White said. "Tonight they really came out believing it, and that's something we can build on."
Grant kept chipping away at the Antioch lead, going ahead for the first time with 1:40 to play in the third quarter on a rebound and lay in by Blanchette. The Sequoits rallied and held a 3-point advantage (45-42) with 3:05 left in the final stanza following a pair of free throws by Innis.
But that's when the Bulldogs took control, with Dunning, Blanchette, junior guard Matt Malmberg and junior forward Joe Sadauskas scoring the team's final 10 points.