FARMINGDALE — TJ Wilson was bringing the ball up the court as the final seconds were ticking away when he saw the Mt. Ararat boys basketball team slipping into an unexpected defense.

There wasn’t much time left for a backup plan. So the Hall-Dale sophomore let instinct take over.

Wilson’s off-balance 3-pointer hit off glass and through the net with a second remaining, giving the Bulldogs a 60-58 victory over the Eagles in a game that was played dead-even for all four quarters.

“It was supposed to be a double screen, and I was supposed to come off and shoot it. But they hedged over because I think they knew I was going to shoot it,” Wilson said. “When I pulled up, it was like two seconds left, so I was like ‘I’ve got to get it off.’ I shot it and I made it. It was crazy.”

Wilson had a team-high 18 points for Hall-Dale, while Carter Bourque added 15 and seven rebounds. The shot denied Mt. Ararat, which was led by 18 points from Carson Taylor and 11 points apiece from Ty Henke (eight rebounds) and Brandon Emerson.

“It was tight, it started to tighten up at the end of the first quarter, I thought, and it was tight all the way through the second and third quarter,” Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said. “I thought we executed really well down the stretch, and we played hard enough to get lucky at the end.”

It was tight, even if the look of the game seemed to imply otherwise. Normally, this was the kind of game that would have had a packed house screaming with each possession, only getting louder as time wound down. It would have been the kind of noise that makes it hard to think, and that makes the hands start to shake and sweat.

There was none of that Saturday as the Bulldogs and Eagles fought through a finish that saw neither team lead by more than three points in the fourth quarter and combine for three go-ahead baskets in the last 20 seconds. That didn’t mean, however, players weren’t feeling the nerves that normally come with a dramatic finish.

“It’s definitely not easy, especially when we’ve been going back and forth all game,” Wilson said. “It’s just as nerve-wracking. It’s no different. Nine seconds on the clock, you’ve got to make the right decision, you’ve got to go out and help your team win. In that situation, it doesn’t matter if there was nobody in the gym.”

Bourque, who was on the receiving end of an alley-oop pass from Ian Stebbins that put Hall-Dale ahead 57-56 with 20 seconds left, said there’s a missing element without the fans, but that he could still feel the tension down the stretch Saturday.

“It’s definitely nail-biting,” he said. “When it comes down to the wire, you’ve just got to play as hard as you can. As fast as you can, as hard as you can.”

Bourque said he liked being able to play the final minutes without commotion from the crowd, but said the sport is better with that late-game element.

“I do definitely miss the fans, I really do,” he said. “The energy, the excitement of them cheering us on, it’s incredible. It’s an incredible feeling.”

The fans would have been a factor as the Bulldogs and Eagles wrestled into the final minutes Saturday. Wilson hit a 3-pointer to tie the game and Max Byron followed with a jumper to put Hall-Dale ahead 53-51 with 4:21 to go, but Mt. Ararat came back when Parker Bate banked in a three with 3:19 to go and then drove for a layup to put the Eagles ahead 56-53.

The Bulldogs answered with a Jackson Leach basket with 1:05 left, then got the layup from Bourque to go ahead 57-56. The lead was short-lived, as Jace Hollenbach cut through the Hall-Dale defense for a layup with 10 seconds left, prompting Ranslow to call a timeout with 9.3 seconds to go.

Of course, that lead didn’t last long, either.

“I think (Wilson) got lucky on that one. I didn’t hear him call glass,” Ranslow said. “I think that game meant as much to our group as most games do. … I thought we fought and we scrapped, and we did everything we needed to do to make it a one-possession game. And at some point, the ball’s got to bounce your way.”

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