WINTHROP — His team needed a play. And Tyler Nadeau, who had spent most of his Saturday night working outside of the spotlight, suddenly threw himself right in.

Nadeau picked off a Winthrop pass and went in for a layup in the closing minutes, giving the Hall-Dale High School boys basketball team a lead it wouldn’t relinquish in a thrilling 49-46 Mountain Valley Conference victory at Winthrop High School.

“Great win. We should feel proud about ourselves, proud about the way we came through some adversity late in the fourth quarter,” coach Chris Ranslow said. “We executed down the stretch just enough to win.”

The matchup between the undefeated Bulldogs (7-0) and defending Class C South champion Ramblers (7-2) promised to be a classic, and in front of a raucous, standing room-only crowd, it delivered. The lead, nearly always Hall-Dale’s, widened and narrowed as both teams charged the playoff-like atmosphere even further with momentum-changing shots, steals and charges — and with 3:31 to go, Winthrop finally swung the game’s direction the other way, taking its first lead when Jared McLaughlin knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Ramblers ahead 46-45.

The crowd erupted, and reached another decibel when Hall-Dale was called for a charge with a chance to take the lead with 1:31 left. Winthrop inbounded the ball, looking to start a possession that would hopefully extend its lead heading into the final minute.

Nadeau, meanwhile, began his retreat toward half-court, without taking his eyes off the action in front of him. And when the pass upcourt came too close, he pounced.

“We were down one, we needed a bucket,” he said. “I was just lucky to read the play just right and get the steal.”

Nadeau tipped the ball forward, beat Beau Brooks to the ball and went in for an easy layup, putting the Bulldogs back ahead 47-46 and stunning the Ramblers with what ended up being the game’s final field goal.

“I’m more numb in that situation until after,” said Nadeau, who finished with eight points. “After they called a timeout, it really set in that we were up.”

“You want to be cautiously aggressive in a situation like that,” Ranslow said. “I thought he stayed back, he guarded his position into the zone, he really looked for an opportunity to lance out at a basketball that he could pick, and he grabbed it.”

Alec Byron (eight points) and Nadeau hit free throws to bump the lead to three, but Winthrop still had a chance with 4.6 seconds left. Brad Bourne looked for an open Rambler but couldn’t find one separating from the Hall-Dale defense, and Jett Boyer got a hand on the pass and grabbed the ball for a steal to clinch the Bulldogs’ most dramatic win yet.

“We were looking to get a three,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “We were doing an elevator screen to another elevator screen.”

It was a final stand from a Hall-Dale defense that had played well all game — at times even carrying the Bulldogs, Ranslow said.

“We didn’t find a way to do it on the offensive end necessarily. I didn’t think that we were getting great looks late,” he said. “But defensively, as with Spruce (Mountain) the other night, I thought we really, really played good defense.”

Nadeau was a big reason for that, hounding Winthrop sharpshooter Jared McLaughlin (11 points) and making a point to ensure the junior rarely got good looks.

“He’s a wonderful catch-and-shoot guy,” Ranslow said. “Good defense is forcing your opponent to do something he’d rather not. … Really, the focus was let’s make him flex into a different skill set of his and make him do something he’s less comfortable with.”

He got away once, draining the 3-pointer in front of his own bench that made it seem the Ramblers were going to finish the comeback even with mistakes that included 28 turnovers and a numbers of charges, some of which contributed to Nate LeBlanc (six points) fouling out with 4:28 to play.

“That’s one of the areas of concern and focus,” MacArthur said. “We want to limit our turnovers, we kind of got exposed on that tonight. … We can fix the problem. With 28 turnovers and you’ve got a one-point lead with one-and-a-half (minutes) to go, if you fix those, we’ll be all right.”

Cam Wood scored 12 points to lead Winthrop, which trailed 41-36 going into the fourth but scored 10 of the first 15 points of the quarter. Ashtyn Abbott led Hall-Dale with 15 points.

“I’m very proud of my kids for competing,” MacArthur said. “You’ve got opportunities to learn from your mistakes. … It’s a little piece of humble pie for all of us.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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