PORTAGE | Having not played each other since 1997, Lowell and Portage packed enough drama for the last 16 years into Tuesday night.
Brandon Cory knocked down all eight of his free throws in overtime as the Red Devils escaped from Portage with a 43-41 victory in a game that featured buzzer-beating shots at the end of each quarter and the overtime.
“Those were two hungry teams that met out on the court tonight,” Lowell coach Nate Richie said. “Portage is playing some really good basketball, and we think we’re playing some pretty good basketball as well. When you get two teams like that together, it’s going to be a special game.”
The Red Devils (4-1) missed their first 10 shots of the game, but the Indians struggled to take advantage and led by only four by the time Lowell got on the board. Portage senior Peter Psomadelis began the highlight reel with a banked-in, buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter.
“We weren’t able to capitalize when they were missing,” Portage coach Rick Snodgrass said. “This game boils down to the fact that if you hit shots, you’re going to win. It’s always been that way.”
Lowell battled back in the second quarter, and Cory sent the game to halftime tied at 15-15 with a buzzer-beating jumper.
Zach VanHook gave the Red Devils their first lead with a 3-pointer on the opening possession of the second half, and the senior scored nine of his game-high 14 points in the third quarter to help give Lowell a 30-21 lead in the final moments.
Portage junior Jordan Collazo scored a buzzer-beating layup to end the third quarter, and the Indians scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 30-30.
The teams traded baskets and a made free throw before Collazo missed a 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left.
“That was kind of the summary of the whole game right there,” Snodgrass said. “We had a chance to win it, and we couldn’t hit the shot. We struggled with our shooting just as much as they did.”
The Red Devils attacked the basket in the extra session, and Cory was able to get to the free-throw line on four occasions, knocking down all eight of his shots. The sophomore continued his hot shooting at the charity stripe after he helped close out a win against West Side on Saturday night.
“I don’t think about being in the game,” Cory said. “I think about all the shots I take after practice. I stay after and take 25 free throws every day, sometimes it’s 50 depending on how I’m feeling. That’s what I was thinking about.”
Both coaches expressed satisfaction with renewing the rivalry that was long a victim of round-robin scheduling in the Duneland Athletic Conference.
“This game helped us get better,” Snodgrass said. “Lowell is a good team, and they play like they’re a DAC team. These are the type of games that are going to make us better.”
Cory had 12 points for the Red Devils, while Michael Lattanzi led the Indians (3-2) with 11 points and three blocks.