WINTHROP — The game was nearly out of reach. And then the veterans on the Winthrop boys basketball team helped the Ramblers pull off one of their most remarkable escapes in recent seasons.

Jared McLaughlin scored 16 points, hitting four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and overtime, Cam Wood added 13 points and Winthrop stormed back from a daunting late deficit to beat Spruce Mountain, 62-58, in Mountain Valley Conference action Friday night.

It was hard to find a Rambler without a smile on the court afterward, be it from joy or relief at pulling out the victory in the team’s second-to-last home game of the season.

“It’s our gym, and our philosophy is that we don’t lose here,” said McLaughlin, a senior. “We worked our hearts out.”

The situation was dire — Class B’s Spruce Mountain (10-4) led the Class C Ramblers (13-1) by nine points with three minutes to go. But with the veterans leading the way, Winthrop found an out.

“We got in the huddle, Coach (Todd MacArthur) was like ‘We’ve got to settle down, we’ve got to buckle down, we’ve got to get some stops,’ ” McLaughlin said. “(The thought is) ‘Let’s get the ball going and make a basket.’ It’s not me, it’s not Cam. Everyone needs to be in this.”

It was McLaughlin’s moment, however. With 3:22 left, he hit a 3-pointer to make it 52-45. With 2:58 left, he hit another to make it 54-48. With 2:11 left he hit a third, making it 54-51 and suddenly giving the Ramblers a realistic chance.

“We were buried and done, the game was almost over,” MacArthur said. “And they fought, dug and clawed their way back into it. … It was a sign of a very senior-driven team.”

“We always have confidence that we can come back from anything,” Wood said. “But when (McLaughlin) started hitting, we knew to feed him the ball and let him keep shooting, and we’d be all set.”

The veteran poise continued when senior Sam Figueroa hit a pair of free throws to make it 55-53, and Wood had a putback with 27 seconds left to tie the game at 55. In overtime, Wood had a pair of free throws to give Winthrop the lead, and McLaughlin hit yet another 3-pointer after a minute-long possession to make it 60-56 with 2:08 to go.

The Phoenix couldn’t find an answering basket, and free throws by McLaughlin and Wood put the game out of reach.

“I’m proud of my kids. I’m proud of the way they competed,” coach Scott Bessey said. “We got down early, they fought back. … A couple of missed free throws hurt, a couple of turnovers hurt. Their size overcame our effort.”

Spruce Mountain got 16 points from Andrew Shaw, 15 from Tate Walton and 12 from Brandon Frey, but was dealt a blow when senior guard Kayle Stewart left with a wrist injury after being fouled with 3:06 to go in overtime.

Bessey said Stewart, a captain, will undergo X-rays, and that the wrist might have been broken.

“Right now my thoughts are with Kayle,” he said. “I’m hoping for the best. I love the kid, and I know he’ll be destroyed.”

Winthrop started fast, taking a 19-10 first quarter lead, but Spruce Mountain trimmed the gap to 25-22 by halftime and continued its surge into the fourth quarter, going up by 10 three times, the latest when Shaw scored to make it 52-42 with just over four minutes left.

The Phoenix appeared to be pulling away, but the stage was just set for McLaughlin, who scored all 16 of his points in the second half and 13 in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“It’s all about scoring at the right moments,” MacArthur said. “We’re playing more kids, so their minutes have gone down, and their averages have also gone down. … But (Jared) knows that there are situations in the game where we need him. And this was one of those games where we needed him.”

He almost won the game in the closing seconds, but his would-be fourth 3-pointer rattled in and out of the basket. Fortunately for the Ramblers, another senior in Wood was ready with the putback for two of his nine points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“The big guy down low, he just wanted to extend that game,” MacArthur said.

Now armed with momentum, Winthrop didn’t give it up, and took a win even its coach didn’t think would happen.

“I thought, for the most part of that game, Spruce wanted it more,” MacArthur said. “But we had a conversation during one of our timeouts, ‘It’s not who wants it more. Who needs it more?’ ”

The result was a rare performance that left both coaches proud of what they saw.

“We only played five guys in the second half. … That was five guys playing their guts out,” Bessey said. “They played well enough to win this game. I feel we probably should have won this game.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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