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Sterling rallies for first win

Some late-game heroics, and that old-fashioned, warm, fuzzy feeling of notching your first win.

Some late-game heroics, and that old-fashioned, warm, fuzzy feeling of notching your first win.

It's amazing what the two can do to erase what otherwise might have gone down as a frustrating performance.

In a 56-55 victory over Seneca on Tuesday in boys' basketball, Sterling (1-2) was sloppy at times, maddening at others.

But after escaping with the win thanks to a bizarre but ultimately encouraging sequence in the final minute, the Knights were all smiles walking off the court.

"It just feels like the season is in full swing now that we have our first win," said junior guard Mikal Waliyyuddin, who forced a steal and drained two foul shots with 20 seconds left to send the Knights to victory in the Board 34 Holiday Showcase at Lenape.

"We feel like we should have won our last game against West Deptford, so it feels really nice to get this win."

Marcus Taylor and Tavon Graves paced Sterling with 15 points each. Graves, a senior forward, came up big in the second half, netting 10 of his points.

The game was back-and-forth for much of the second half. Sterling led by four points with a little more than four minutes to play before Seneca (0-4) scored 11 of the game's next 14 points, taking a 55-51 lead with 48 seconds to play.

But in final 32 seconds, Tyler Clark twice played the hero.

First, Clark hit a three-pointer to pull his team to within a point.

That led to the game's decisive play. With 20 seconds left, Clark and Waliyyuddin trapped a Seneca guard around the midcourt sideline. Waliyyuddin forced a turnover, and the ball fell into Clark's hands.

As Clark was falling out of bounds, he pushed the ball forward to Waliyyuddin, who ran one-on-one with a defender and was fouled going up for a layup.

Walliyuddin made the free throws, and his team escaped with the win.

"Hopefully, we can take this win and turn it into more success," Clark said. "But there are things that we can improve on. In the second quarter, we were leaving shooters wide open; we weren't communicating.

"We went into the locker room and I told the guys that it looked like they were taking shooting practice out there. But we were able to slow them down in the third quarter."

Sterling led by as many as 11 points in the first quarter before Seneca opened the second period with 12 straight points thanks to some strong outside shooting, including making 4 of 5 from beyond the three-point arc in the quarter.

"There were a lot of turnovers by both teams, but we took care of the ball a little bit better in the second half," Sterling coach Rob Atene said. "We have some talent this year, so it was nice to get that first win. We just have to start meshing together a little more."

Seneca was led by Carter Gimbel (17 points), who converted a three-point play on a tough layup with 48 seconds left to put his team ahead by 55-51.

Gimbel was complemented by Nick Rapagna (13 points), who provided solid outside shooting for the Eagles.

"We came back twice, but we found a way to lose," Seneca coach Erich Wiltsee said. "You can't turn the ball over late."

Seneca   8 19 12 16 – 55

Sterling   19 9 15 13 – 56

St: Tyler Clark 12, Jerry Crismond 4, Tavon Graves 15, Marcin Jones 2, Marcus Taylor 15, Christian Walsh 2, Mikal Waliyyuddin 6.

Se: Jay Daunoras 2, Carter Gimbel 17, Jake Limpert 5, Alex Magasic 8, A.J. Miskiewicz 3, Nick Rapagna 13, Michael Schreiber 7.