STRONG — The Hall-Dale boys basketball team let one get away in its last game. Faced with another opportunity in their next game Friday night, the Bulldogs didn’t let this one slip through their grasp.

Josh Nadeau scored 14 points and Patrick Rush had 12 to lead a balanced scoring effort, and Hall-Dale let a 10-point lead shrink to two before making the defensive stands and free throws necessary to beat Mt. Abram 61-57.

Hall-Dale improved to 9-4 on the heels of a 59-56 loss to Monmouth, while Mt. Abram, which was led by Nate Luce’s 22 points and 10 rebounds and Kenyon Pillsbury’s 14, fell to 9-5.

“We squandered it away Wednesday night, and tonight we found a way to hold on tight to it,” said H-D coach Chris Ranslow, whose team lost a 10-point halftime lead in the Monmouth defeat. “It’s the peaks and valleys that you run with when you’ve got an inexperienced club.

“Hopefully this is the turning point. Or, we could go back down in a trough on Tuesday against Spruce. You just never know.”

It got scary for the Bulldogs. Hall-Dale worked its lead to 10 points, the largest gap of the night, at 57-47 with 5:15 to go, but after Roadrunners coach Dustin Zamboni called a timeout, the Roadrunners re-grouped. A Hunter Warren drive to the basket was followed by a Luce jumper, and Adam Luce splashed a shot to make it 57-53. A Boden Washington free throw bumped the lead to five, but Nate Luce came right back with a 3-pointer that made it a one-score game at 58-56 with 2:14 to go.

That was as close as the Roadrunners got, however. After Rush made a pair of free throws, Max Byron made two steals on the next three Mt. Abram possessions, and Rush got a rebound, his 11th of the game, with less than 40 seconds to go to push the Roadrunners into desperation mode.

“I was happy with the pressure we put on, I just wish we would have come out with that type of fire,”  Zamboni said. “We decided to kick it into gear a little too late.”

Ranslow was happy with the way his team pulled through as the pressure ramped up in the closing seconds. Hall-Dale didn’t allow a point in the final 2:14 until a free throw with 1.2 seconds left.

“I called a couple more timeouts than I traditionally do down the stretch to make sure we were organized and we were all on the exact same page to make sure those last-second, end-of-game situations didn’t get away from us,” he said. “I thought we executed well.”

As did Rush, who came through for the Bulldogs both on the glass and at the free throw line.

“We just played well today. Great team effort,” he said. “I thought we played well the whole game. We protected the basketball, played really good defense. … This is a huge team win. Now we’ve got a big two weeks coming to end the season.”

Rush and Nadeau, who also had seven rebounds, led the scoring, but Byron added nine, Caleb Peaslee added eight, and a cast of Bulldogs including Sam Sheaffer, Owen Austin and Ian Stebbins made the defensive plays and gathered the rebounds to keep the Roadrunners at bay.

“Not one player today just played outstanding,” Rush said. “We all played well, and it’s just a huge win.”

It was a team-driven victory, but the Bulldogs’ most experienced players put the team in its strongest position of the night. Nate Luce hit a jump shot to tie the game at 47 in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but Rush made a shot off the glass and a pair of free throws to make it 51-47, and Nadeau scored first on a 3-point play and then a 3-point shot to push the lead to 10.

“I thought we got really, really solid point guard play tonight,” Ranslow said. “Pat missed a couple of chippies inside, but I thought he was a tough guard. They were laying all over him, they were trying to be physical with him, and to his credit he found a way to score it.”

Ranslow said the team didn’t work hard enough for the win against Monmouth. He said the opposite was true Friday.

“We had a lot of energy,” he said. “We’ve got seven guys that play those other two starting spots — Max, Boden, Peaslee — and I thought we got nice contributions throughout the course of it.”

Adam Luce added nine points for Mt. Abram.

“A game like this helps in the long run,” Zamboni said. “Obviously we would have liked to come out on top in it, but what we’re shooting for is being able to close out games in game 19, as opposed to the regular season.”

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