by Bennett, which put the Clippers ahead 28-24 at halftime.
Perhaps as much a factor as the Lions missing shots, Becraft said, was how Bennett (1-3) kept coming at the ball, contesting almost every pass and putting heavy man and zone pressure on its guests. The heavy back-and-forth was reflected in more than 20 total fouls called on the two teams before intermission.
“They played with a lot of of intensity up and down the floor, and they found the big guys,” Becraft said. “They hit some big shots. Really, to be honest with you, we scratched and clawed just to get back in it, and I’m proud of that.”
As the third quarter progressed, the Lions, who shot 10 for 24 (41.7 percent) before the break, got a little warmer. Down as much as nine, at 41-32 with 4:05 to go in the third, Queen Anne’s kept at it, and Nick Dunkerly stepped up.
Hitting three short shots and a 3-pointer, Dunkerly put in 10 of his 11 points on the night in the third. His final bucket of the period, off a Monroe feed, put Queen Anne’s up 46-45 with 1:24 to go. Morton responded 40 seconds later with a bucketand-1 to put Bennett ahead 48-46 going into the final quarter.
Bennett used an 8-2 run to stretch its lead to 56-48, with 3:48 to go, but then the Lions, who had scored on consecutive possessions just twice in the first 28 minutes, began to play with a little consistency.
Tyrik Brooks’s 3-pointer with 3:38 to play began the final push by the Lions. Brought in for defensive help, he’d eventually score eight key points off the bench.
Jameer Richardson hit a jumper 20 seconds later to make it a three-point game. Bennett hit a single free throw, and then Brooks missed the front end of a 1-and-1 before Charles Hynson (11 points) sank a layup off a Monroe pass to narrow the deficit to 57-55 in Bennett’s favor.
Richardson banged home a trey with 1:34 to go, putting the Lions up 59-57; it would turn out to be the game’s sixth and final lead change. Richardson then hit the second of a pair of free throws to put his team up three with 1:07 remaining.
A possession moments later, which saw two missed Clipper 3-pointers, eventually led to Morton, fouled while driving to the rack, at the charity stripe. He missed both free throws.
Richardson, fouled on the third Lion shot of the ensuing possession, made his two free throws with 45.5 seconds left.
Up 62-57, the Lions looked good.
“We felt like we had a little breathing room,” Becraft said, “but then they hit that three.”
Bringing the ball inbounds after the Richardson shots, Bennett got the ball to Jamyron Cannon. Shooting just 2 for 7 overall and 0 for 3 from downtown before that point, Cannon nailed the trey to pull the hosts to within 62-60.
Single free-throw hits by Brooks and Monroe in the next 21 seconds put the Lions up four. Bennett got the ball back after the last hit, by Monroe with 9.4 ticks left on the clock.
Becraft called his fourth timeout of the second half to remind players not to put too many hands on Bennett shooters who, likely to start jacking threes, would get three free throws if fouled beyond the arc.
Needing a minor miracle, Bennett nearly got it.
Dashiell went up for a shot from the left side with 4.2 seconds to go, and a hand on him by Brooks was whistled a personal foul, sending the Bennett guard to the free throw line for three shots.
The call came as the shot flew down, inches from catastrophe for the Lions.
Had Dashiell made the 3-point shot, he’d have received a free throw to tie it. But the ball clanged off the rim, the bounce, as it happened, giving the Lions just enough breathing room for the win, though they didn’t know it yet.
“We’d just called timeout and went over that but that’s kids. He made a mistake; he’ll learn from it,” said Becraft of the foul . “But, I also reminded him, that he hit a 3-pointer from the corner, and if he hadn’t have hit that, we wouldn’t have won.
“So it’s in perspective. It’s a mistake, and he shouldn’t have made it,” Becraft continued, “but he’s a kid, he made it, and without him we wouldn’t have won, foul or not.”
Dashiell made all three shots to pull Bennett to within 64-63. But it was a mixed blessing. The final shot going in meant the Lions would get the ball out of bounds, and Bennett would have to steal it, or foul and hope to get a rebound and last-second shot on the other end. Had Dashiell missed, the Clippers would’ve had at least a chance for the rebound, under their own rim, rather than from 84 feet away.
The Clippers couldn’t steal the inbounds pass, which went to Lamont Downs. Bennett fouled intentionally with 2.9 seconds left.
Downs missed both free throws, and Bennett came down with the rebound on the second one, but couldn’t hit a last-second throw from 70 feet downcourt.
“They fought,” Becraft said. “They battled through a tough run, and that’s what matters most. Mikey had a good night, 18 points and a bunch of assists. Charles [Hynson] had 11, Nick Dunkerly, who played good late for us, and that’s important, he had 11 also. Charles [who had four fouls for the final five minutes of play] was able to play through foul trouble, and that was big.
“Jameer Richardson, he really stepped up for us, had some important points,” Becraft added. “And Tyrik did a good job in the 1-2-2 trap I put on, plus he had some big points in the last couple of minutes.”
The Lions are off until Dec. 26, when they take on Saints Peter and Paul at 6:15 p.m. at Chesapeake College in the Overtime Live Holiday tournament. Bennett’s last game before Christmas is on Wednesday at home at 5:30 p.m. against Snow Hill. Follow me on Twitter: