HENDERSONVILLE - The Pope John Paul II Knights let a 7-point lead in the fourth quarter slip away and fell at home on Friday to archrival Father Ryan 58-56 on a last-second shot.
Luke Gdowski scored the final 10 points of the game for the Irish, including a layup with 2.9 seconds left to give Father Ryan the win. He finished the game with 36 points.
“Gdowski was really good down the stretch,” JPII head coach Charles Wade said. “He willed them to the victory.”
The defensive game plan was to try to contain Gdowski and Father Ryan sharpshooter Isaac Vandenburgh. The Knights held Vandenburgh scoreless, but Gdowski was able to get to the rim and score all game, as well as hitting several key 3-pointers.
“We tried everything” to stop Gdowski, Wade said. “He hit some big shots.”
After the first quarter ended with Ryan holding a 15-14 lead, JPII came back in the second quarter behind six points from junior Sam Specht and took a 28-25 lead at the half.
The Knights opened the third quarter with a 13-4 run to open a 41-29 lead. But, Ryan closed the gap to 44-37 at the end of the quarter, with Gdowski scoring all of Ryan’s 12 points in the period.
“We thought we were in control,” Wade said. “They kept chipping away.”
“We missed some crucial free throws that we thought could salt it away,” Wade added. “We didn’t rebound as well as we did in the third quarter.”
“We also missed some easy shots inside,” Wade said. “We missed some 3s that we normally knockdown.”
Father Ryan whittled the deficit down and took a 54-53 lead with 1:27 left on the second straight 3-pointer by Gdowski.
Taggert Patterson hit a basket to put JPII back on top 55-54, but Gdowski answered with another scoring drive to the basket to wrestle the lead back for the Irish, 56-55.
Specht was fouled and went to the line with 37 seconds left to shoot two free throws. He missed the first and hit the second to tie the score at 56-56.
Father Ryan held the ball for the final shot and took a time out with 9 seconds left. Out of the timeout, they got the ball to Gdowski, who drove to the basket and hit the winning shot.
“It’s a tough loss,” Wade said. JPII is now 15-7 on the season and 1-4 in the Division II-AA Middle Region. The Knights travel to play Goodpasture on Tuesday.
Father Ryan’s record improved to 13-6 and 1-3 in the region.
Specht finished the game with 18 points to lead JPII, followed by 12 points from Mike Martini and 10 points from Sabino Otina.
In the third quarter, Specht scored his 1,000th career point and now has a career total of 1,010.
“Sam’s a hard worker. I’m not surprised he got to 1,000,” Wade said. “I’m proud of him. I’m proud of the work he puts in.
“He’s got his best basketball ahead of him. He’s going to chase down the all-time leading scoring record,” Wade said. “He may get it before the end of the year.”
Jaylon Cambridge holds the JPII school record for career points with 1,149.
Father Ryan (58): Luke Gdowski 36, Josh Pfeifere 9, James Hinson 6, Adam McWright 4, Collin Haugh 3.
JPII (56): Sam Specht 18, Mike Martini 12, Sabino Otina 10, Kilon Williams 6, Connor Tuerff 4, Eli Hollins 2, Taggart Patterson 2, Judson Murray 2.