By Joseph Hayes
James Delong nearly did it all.
The senior guard scored 20 fourth quarter points to rally the Port Huron Northern boys basketball team from a double digit deficit.
He made a pair of clutch free throws with the game on the line with just seconds to play, to tie the game.
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But Delong did nearly everything but walk out of the Port Huron Northern High School gymnasium with a victory on Tuesday night.
Despite all of his heroic efforts and his game-high 32 points, Northern still fell short in a heartbreaker to Fraser, 67-65.
Thomas McNelis made a game winning floater with under a second to play for Fraser to give the Ramblers the go ahead bucket and the win.
“I practice free throws every single day,” Delong said. “You practice them when you are tired and it makes it easier in the game to make free throws in big moments.
“Some of the shots, I don’t really know how all of them went in, but it went our way at times. We kept feeding off the crowd’s energy.”
Northern got back into the game behind it’s defense. The Huskies pressed and trapped to force turnovers in the fourth quarter, which sped up the Fraser offense and forced the Ramblers into a plethora of turnovers.
On the other end of the floor, Northern began to pick up momentum, as Delong scored 20 of Northern’s 30 fourth quarter points.
Northern trailed 19-12 at the end of the first quarter and 33-25 at halftime.
They drew closer and trailed 40-35 at the end of the third quarter; but was still down, 48-39, with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
“We dug ourselves a whole,” Northern forward Ryan McNeill said after scoring 10 points. “We came out slow the first three quarters. The momentum was crazy in the fourth quarter.
“The atmosphere was loud with the band. It’s just a big learning experience. We can learn a lot from it. We have to come out harder, like we want to play.”
With the game on the line, Northern went into high gear and pulled within 61-56, with 1:56 remaining.
Northern forced another Fraser turnover, Delong recorded a three-point play and would eventually add a pair of field goals before later tying the game on a pair of free throws with 18 second left.
That set up Fraser’s late game heroics on the final possession of the game.
Tyler Jamison added 10 points for Northern and Austin Meister scored 8.