CLARK, NJ-  Arthur L. Johnson High School senior Brendan Stanzione’s putback basket with 0.9 seconds left in overtime lifted the No. 3 seeded Crusaders past the No. 14 Holmdel High Hornets by a final score of 64-62 Monday night in Clark. 

The Crusaders called their final timeout with 17 seconds left in overtime to plan out a strategy and it all paid off. Stanzione grabbed the ball and banked it home to give his team the win in their first home state playoff game in over 30 years.

Holmdel had no timeouts and couldn’t respond as the clock ran out.

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“I tried to get in good position to get a putback and I jumped over the other player to try and get the ball," Stanzione said. "I knew I only had a few seconds so I just put it up and thankfully it went in.” 

The teams engaged in a tug-of-war battle in the first half, with Johnson ahead of Holmdel 22-19 at halftime.

The Holmdel Hornets took a 40-38 lead heading into the third quarter, but Johnson would stay close  as the fourth quarter went on. The Crusaders were in danger of elimination, trailing by three points with less than 15 seconds left, but sophomore Brandon Hund would not allow Holmdel to pull it out.

He beat the buzzer with a game-tying three-pointer, knotting the score up at 57-57 heading into the extra frame. Hund talked about the moments leading up to one of the biggest shots of his career so far for the Crusaders.

“In the huddle, I knew that since we had no timeouts left, we needed a three,” Hund said. “So after Brenden Kelly shot the ball, it bounced off the rim and I saw [Brendan] Stanzione go up for it and I knew he was going to get a piece of it because he always dominates the glass.”

“He happened to tip it to me and I wasn’t sure how much time was left because I didn’t have a chance to look, so I just shot from the corner where my favorite spot is. Right in front of the crowd and when I shot, I just knew it was going in. I felt it and then before I knew it, the whole bench was running out and I had a big smile on my face. But then we had to get back to business to put the game away and come out with the win.”

The two teams battled back-and-forth throughout the extra four minutes, with Stanzione scoring the game-winning basket. Holmdel, with timeouts left, was forced to inbound and weren’t able to set anything up. Tt was bedlam in Clark.

For Johnson, junior George Visconti scored 24 points in the win, while Hund put up 14 points for the Crusaders in the nail-biting victory.

The two teams met in the Rahway Christmas Tournament on December 27, with Johnson winning 61-58.

For Holmdel, junior Timmy Zhou led all scorers with 26 points in the heartbreaking loss for his team.

The Johnson Crusaders (20-4) advance to the NJSIAA Central, Group 2 Quarterfinals for the second consecutive season.  They will face off against No. 6 seeded Lincoln HS Wednesday night in a home game at 7:00 p.m.

The Holmdel Hornets finish their 2016-17 season with a 12-10 record.

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