FISHERSVILLE — The Hive was alive on a Friday night thriller, as visiting Stuarts Draft came from behind to defeat Wilson Memorial 75-71 in an Augusta County rivarly and Shenandoah District boys basketball showdown.
In its typical frenetic fashion, the Cougars overcame a 45-36 deficit at the beginning of the second half and proceeded to claw their way back into the game.
A three-pointer by sophomore Aaron Nice tied the contest at 51-all and another triple from Mark Rodgers pushed the visitors into the lead (54-51) with 2:05 remaining in the third quarter.
But the Hornets retook the lead on a pair of Matt Poole free throws and an assist from Gabe Brown to Gabe LaGrua at the end of the period.
A four-point play by Draft's Ryan Riley early in the fourth propelled the Cougars back in front, but Wilson wouldn't give up the lead easily.
Three free throws by senior Emmanuel Gunter tied the game at 66-all, setting up a dramatic finish.
The Cougars spurted out again, but Wilson hung on to hope in the final minute.
Poole's two free throws with 23 seconds put the Hornets back to within three (74-71) and Zakar Woodson came up with a key steal against his former teammates. But a late turnover resulted in a Draft possession and Rodgers hit the front end of a one-and-one to seal the victory.
"We expect this every game," said Stuarts Draft head coach Mike Gale. "It was another test and we battled back after things weren't going our way."
Wilson took a commanding 14-3 lead at the beginning and looked to pull away.
But the Cougars forced numerous Wilson turnovers and kept pounding the offensive glass. (35 forced turnovers for the game and 35 offensive rebounds).
By the end of the half, the Cougars had erased all put five points off the early Hornet lead.
"It was a rivalry game and both teams were up for it," said WMHS head coach Jeremy Hartman. "Turnovers have been our Achilles heel and I thought the game became a battle of attrition."
Both teams were playing their third games of the week.
The Cougars' depth put 11 players in the scorebook, with Nice and Riley leading the scoring with 15 and 14 points respectively.
Rodgers chipped in with 10 boards and five steals, while Freddie Watkins contributed 11 rebounds and five steals. Jo'el Howard dished out seven assists.
Wilson had a balanced scoring attack as five players reached double figures. (Poole 15 points, Jaxon Hartman 13, Gunter and LaGrua 12 each and Gunter 11).
Poole pulled down 10 rebounds, while Gunter had eight assists and Woodson had four blocks and three steals.
Wilson (3-7 overall, 1-1 district) will face Buffalo Gap at home on Tuesday, while Draft (6-6, 2-0) travels to Fort Defiance on the same night. The Cougars have played only one home game thus far.