The McDonell boys basketball team is quickly developing a knack for late-game magic.
The latest Houdini performance for the Macks came on Saturday evening when they overcame a 7-point deficit in the final 35 seconds of a 49-48 victory over Alma Center Lincoln.
Trent Witkowski's bucket with 7.7 seconds to go put the Macks (10-2) in front, but the Hornets (12-2) had one final shot at the win and nearly hit on it when Alma Center Lincoln's shot at the buzzer rolled around the rim before falling out to clinch the come-from-behind win for McDonell.
The Macks went nearly four minutes between points late in the second half, but scored the final eight points to win.
"These kids don't quit," McDonell coach Adam Schilling said. "Sometimes we make it harder on ourselves by the way we start games but at the end of the game I know I can count on them."
The comeback started in an unconventional way when Jake Siegenthaler delivered a 4-point play with 34 seconds to go to bring his team within one possession. Siegenthaler was fouled after putting up a high-arching three and followed up with a free throw.
"Jake's 4-point play was huge," Schilling said. "We kind of got our life back, to be honest with you. We were down seven at that point and got it down to one possession and we could set up our defense and try to get a couple steals and we made the plays when we had to."
McDonell forced a turnover after trapping the Hornets on the ensuing inbounds pass. JD Bohaty earned the steal, then quickly found Witkowski for a bucket with 26 seconds left to cut the Alma Center Lincoln lead to 48-47.
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"The goal was just to get a trap and if we didn't get a steal we were just going to foul as soon as they got out of the trap but we got the steal and we got the layup," Witkowski said.
The Macks forced another turnover on Alma Center Lincoln's next possession and took over with 20.5 seconds left. Witkowski wasn't the first option on the play but proved to be the right one as he drove to the basket and finished off the glass with less than eight seconds to go.
Siegenthaler had a team-high 16 points for McDonell including three 3-pointers while Eion Kressin added 10 points. Ethan Breheim and Justin Rowekamp had 12 points apiece for the Hornets, the current leader of the Large Dairyland Conference.
"We just pull together as a team better," Siegenthaler said of his team's late-game heroics this season. "Unselfish basketball. It goes back to that and playing as a team."
The two teams battled to a 23-23 tie at the break and stayed close to each other early in the second half before it looked as though the Hornets may pull away. Six straight points for Alma Center Lincoln helped the Hornets push their lead to 48-41 with 1:06 to go.
Earlier in the month the Macks trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half against Osseo-Fairchild before earning a 64-59 win on Jan. 7. McDonell trailed Eau Claire Regis by four at halftime on Thursday before picking up a 59-56 win over the Ramblers to remain one game behind Altoona in the Western Cloverbelt Conference standings.
McDonell hosts Cadott on Tuesday.