That seems to be the trend for the Summit High boys' basketball team this year.
They're on the way to a win - and then the game slips away. The same held true Tuesday night at home against rival Battle Mountain High School (7-4 overall; 3-3 Western Slope), which saw Summit (1-10 overall; 1-6 Slope) four points ahead of the Huskies heading into the fourth quarter of the fast-paced game.
Summit started the fourth quarter slow and in control, shutting the Huskies down and stirring up frustration. That's when Jack Kamby started lighting it up, sinking one from inside the paint for 2 - and then the three-pointers began. After sinking three in a row, Battle Mountain took the lead (47-50) and never let go, finishing the game off with a 57-51 victory. That follows the season opener, another almost-win where the Huskies topped Summit in Edwards, 50-48.
"We gave away the lead. It was a tough one," Summit head coach Phil Tronsrue said, adding, "I know (Kamby) can shoot a three here or there, but he probably took more threes today than he's ever taken in a game and he's made more than he's ever made in a game."
They weren't easy three-pointers, either, as Summit's players forced the Husky to shoot through the weeds on more than one of his targets.
As the game slowed with coaches buying time with timeouts and players drawing fouls, Battle Mountain sealed the deal with free throws.
After Joe LyBarger sunk a reverse layup, Alex Banegas drew a foul and hit one of two at the charity stripe to bump the score to 53-47.
Summit's Garrett Tousey sunk one for two points, followed by Merrick Crispell stepping to the line and going null on his throws. Summit's Markeith McDonald took the ball to the Tiger basket to close the gap to 53-51 with 26 seconds left in the game, but Battle Mountain used the time to secure some free throws, which sealed the deal.
Amadou Dath and LyBarger each sent the ball plummeting through the basket, each going two for two at the line to take the lead, despite Tiger Coy Coker's desperate attempts from the outside to close the gap.
"We missed some key free throws, and we gotta convert," Tronsrue said. "They missed a few, too, but they were hitting them when they needed to."
Battle Mountain's victory puts the team again in the league running.
"We took two timeouts at the end and focused on defense. It was time for us to pick up on the defensive end," Battle Mountain head coach Tommy Padilla said. "We got Jack going on threes - that's what got us back in the game. It was one game we needed to get to be in the league hunt."
It wasn't easy, Padilla added. "Coming in on Coach Tronsrue - It's tough to win on the opponent's home court."
But they did, and in part, it's because the Tigers need to close.
"We're playing really good. We're playing really good for 26, 27, 28 minutes. ... If you take a look at almost all of our league games, we have been very competitive to about three-quarters of the game, maybe a little bit more, maybe a little less," Tronsrue said. "It's just getting to the peak. We cannot get to that. We had a couple chances tonight. We extended it six, and then they fought back. We extended it another six, and they fought back again. We should have been looking for great shots while we're ahead."
Despite quality play at Eagle Valley on Jan. 8 (66-55 loss), Summit traveled to Rifle Friday and "got our butts handed to us," Tronsrue said. The final score was 62-30.
Meanwhile, Summit's junior varsity team had its first win in two years Tuesday night against Battle Mountain's JV squad. At the end of November, the Tigers lost by a mere two points. This time, Marco Reifsteck hit a three and then two free throws to seal the game by a one-point margin.
On Saturday at 1:30 p.m., the Tigers face off against Delta, the Western Slope league leader.
"We have a challenge ahead of us. We have to regroup. We have three days. We have to get after them," Tronsrue said. "We're home again and hopefully we can take it to them. It would be a nice way to go over the top by pulling off a win against them and tightening some things up."