MOUNT ZION — Teutopolis coach Jason Hanson didn't like the lackluster finish.
At the same, he was glad the Wooden Shoes still found a way to win in the end.
No. 9 state-ranked T-Town survived Mount Zion's stunning comeback 66-57 in the closing two minutes Tuesday night.
The Braves (11-9 overall) erased a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter with a 16-2 run, making four of their first five shot attempts and all six free throws during the stretch.
Jonah Smith and AJ Davis each made a 3, while Ryan Kernan converted a traditional 3-point play to make it 56-55 T-Town with a little more than three minutes to go.
Smith led the Braves with 17 points, while Kernan had 15.
“He's so good with the basketball,” Mount Zion coach Bryon Graven said of Smith, a sophomore point guard. “He sees the floor and his basketball IQ is off the charts. But you have to give credit to the forwards, too. Our kids understand that Jonah can create plays.”
The Wooden Shoes, meanwhile, sputtered with a four-minute scoring drought in the fourth quarter and finished with 16 turnovers.
“This is something that we've really struggled with: Finishing games,” Hanson said. “It was disappointing that we didn't finish better. A lot of that was our own mistakes — poor passing and not very good defense.
"They hit some shots, but I was disappointed that we let them back in it.”
T-Town (17-5) closed the game on a 10-2 run, ignited by a pair of critical baskets by senior forward/center Brett Mette.
“We were not playing too well at the end of the game,” Mette said. “That's how we've been playing for the past couple of weeks. We just had to slow down, take our time and stick together.”
It was over after a Kyle Smith layup with 45 seconds on the clock, giving Teutopolis a much-needed win after going 1-3 in the Nashville Invitational last week.
“We were up in the fourth quarter in every game,” Hanson said of Nashville. “We played some tough teams and kept finding ways to lose instead of finding ways to win. We didn't play that great, but we found a way to get it done.”
T-Town junior guard/forward Mitch Hardiek scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half for a 34-27 halftime advantage, while Brett Mette had 13 points. Smith and Blake Mette chipped in nine and eight points, respectively.
It claimed a 52-39 lead by the end of the third quarter.
"When he gets his feet set and shoots a good shot, he's going to make it most of the time," Hanson said of Hardiek. "He's done a heck of a job for us."
The Braves started brewing a potential upset with an early 8-3 lead. Mount Zion hung onto an 18-17 lead by the end of the first period.
“We came out ready to go,” Graven said. “It was a good time to do it.”
However, Hardiek reclaimed the lead at the start of the second quarter with a 3 and the Wooden Shoes never trailed after that.
Mount Zion's Jonah Smith drove down the right side of the paint and lost control in the final seconds of the third quarter.
However, he lobbed the ball from the floor and somehow found Kernan near the wing. Kernan threw up a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer and hit nothing but net.
The Braves ended up shooting 20-for-39 (51.3 percent) from the floor.
“We've shot it well all year,” Graven said. “I think three of our guards shoot over 40 percent from 3.”
Teutopolis played without reserve junior forward/center Lucas Deters, who sat out with a leg injury.
Then in the second quarter, it lost junior backup guard Chris Ungrund with a possible rib injury. He was tenderly walked off the court and taken to a hospital.
“It's that time of the year when you have guys banged up,” Hanson said. “It's a long season, so we try to limit our practices and try to keep guys healthy.”
Brett Mette added, “We have some injuries, but we just have to play through it. There's not much you can do about it.”