SMITHSBURG—The two most important plays of the night came off missed free throws by the eventual winning team.
They were offensive rebounds by Smithsburg that kept Williamsport from making a last-ditch effort at a tie as the Leopards picked up a 48-45 MVAL Antietam Conference win on Friday night.
Matt Sprecher, returning to the lineup after missing two games with a concussion, drove the lane for a short jumper that gave Smithsburg a 46-45 lead with 26 seconds remaining.
In the backcourt, Cobi King was guilty of an ill-advised personal foul, sending Sterling Christy to the line for a two-shot bonus, but Christy missed both shots.
King was fouled with 14.4 seconds left and went to the line, missing the front end of a 1-and-1, but Matt Stevens made the first big play with a rebound deep along the baseline to keep possession with Smithsburg (2-2, 1-1).
Stevens was fouled immediately with 11 seconds left, made the first shot for a 47-45 lead, missed the second and King got in the lane to knock the ball backward to Sprecher, who hit one free throw for a 48-45 lead with 8 seconds left.
Williamsport (0-4, 0-2) raced into the front court and Ryan Crabtree, who had hit four 3-pointers in the second half, launched a shot that fell short of the mark.
“(King) made a bad foul on Christy, but he is a smart player and it showed tipping that ball back to Sprecher,” Smithsburg coach Mike Williams said. “Stevens had the first play and then King steps up.”
Williamsport struggled in the field and at the foul stripe.
The Wildcats hit only 15 of 50 from the field and a paltry 10 of 24 at the line, including 4 of 14 by Christy, who tied Crabtree for top team honors with 12 points.
“We ran our offense and got any shot we wanted,” Wildcats coach Scott Mowbray said. “We just did not finish layups and didn’t do the things we needed to do at crunch time.”
Smithsburg led a ho-hum first half 19-18 and was in foul trouble with Sprecher and Bryan Tracy each saddled with two and Cedric Barnes with three in the second quarter. But the Leopards received good bench play from Stevens and Kyle Dinterman to help keep them in step.
Crabtree hit two 3s to open the third quarter, and Williamsport extended its lead 28-21 before the Leopards scored the final eight points of the quarter for a 33-30 lead.
The Wildcats took a 36-33 lead at the outset of the fourth on two more long-range shots by Crabtree and held a 42-37 advantage before the Leopards tied it at 42 on a three-point play by King with 2:07 remaining.
“We didn’t recognize Crabtree and we talked about that in practice,” Williams said. “Sprecher was a key player to have back.”
Another impetus-killing shot came by Bolton at the end of the first half with a 3-pointer, immediately after Christy had entertained the crowd with a slam dunk for an 18-16 lead.
Bolton finished with 13 points to lead Smithsburg. King had nine points and five rebounds.
The Wildcats outrebounded Smithsburg 34-25 with Nick Johnson grabbing 11 boards and Christy nine, several offensively that couldn’t be put back in the hoop.
“No doubt, foul shooting hurt us tonight,” Mowbray said.
Smithsburg 48, Williamsport 45
WILLIAMSPORT (0-4, 0-2)
Crabtree 12, Arnone 5, Christy 12, Johnson 8, Seibert 4, Cross 4. Totals 15 10-24 45.
SMITHSBURG (2-2, 1-1)
Bolton 13, King 9, Sprecher 8, Tract 6, Barnes 7, Stevens 3, Dinterman 2. Totals 20 5-11 48
Williamsport 7 11 12 15 — 45
Smithsburg 6 13 14 15 — 48
3-point goals — Williamsport 5 (Crabtree 4, Cross), Smithsburg 3 (Bolton 3).