Axemen stop Millers on the road, 44-40

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - It was a close game between South and Springfield up until the final seconds when South (10-8) defeated Springfield (8-8) Tuesday night at Miller Pavilion.

For most of the evening, the Springfield Millers - supported by a student section decked out in cowboy-themed outfits - controlled the game.

But every time South needed a big basket, it was junior point guard Kirk Bassett who shined bright for the purple and black.

In the final 24 seconds of the game, the first-year starter went 4-4 from the free throw line, finishing with 13 points and guiding South Eugene to a 44-40 victory in a nonleague boys basketball game.

"Kirk's play has been a real reason why we're winning ball games," said South Eugene head coach Dave Hancock. "He's really taking over ownership of the team. He's developing into a fine young point guard and we're really excited that he's just a junior."

In the third quarter, South was down 28-27 with just seconds remaining.

Springfield's 2-3 zone defense had held Yale-bound Eli Lininger to just five points on the evening.

Point guard Bassett attacked the basketball rim from the left side of the hoop, drove baseline and was fouled.

Nothing flashy, but he proceeded to sink both free throws, giving the Axemen its first lead since the opening minutes of the second quarter.

Then, after a back-and-forth fourth quarter, the score was tied at 40-40 with 24 seconds left in regulation.

Bassett received an inbounds pass and was fouled. One of the best foul shooters on the team, the 5'8" junior knocked down a pair of free throws to give South a two point advantage.

The Millers had a chance to tie on their next possession, but Bassett came up with a clutch steal and was immediately fouled.

The game was still in question as Bassett headed to the line with just seconds remaining. He calmly took a few dribbles, spun the ball back into his chest, and fired two perfect free throws to seal the game in South Eugene's favor.

"Two weeks ago we would have lost that game," Hancock said. "Tonight it was a close game down the line and we're starting to win those games, so I think that's a real positive. Kirk play has been a big reason for that."

Casey ChubbFertal contributed 11 points and Mason Green-Richards added 10 for the Axemen.

Freshman Nick Ah Sam scored 15 points and freshman Lucas Wilson added 10 points for the Millers.

South Eugene will host Willamette this Thursday at the Purple Pit.