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Von Steuben survives late Lane run for Red-North win

Von Steuben’s Rafael Cruz couldn’t ice the game at the line the first time but succeeded after his team forced a second chance.

The Panthers escaped Lane with a 58-55 win over their Red-North rivals after the point guard made two free throws with 12 seconds left.

Clinging to a two-point lead with 26 seconds remaining, Cruz missed the first shot of a one-and-one, but an offensive rebound by Jacob Brown allowed Von Steuben to retain possession.

“I knew I had to hit the second shots,” Cruz said. “My teammate hustled for that ball. It was a hustle play. Thanks to him, I was able to get that second shot.”

Brown’s rebound wasn’t the only effort play. The Panthers outrebounded the Indians 34-22 and finished with 13 offensive boards, which led to eight put-back baskets.

“We’ve been stressing rebounding, offense and defense, to the team all the time,” Von Steuben coach Vince Carter said. “We got a little height, but it’s like we don’t get in there and mix it up real well. Today we got in there and did a much better job of rebounding.”

Meriton Bunjaku scored 10 points and led Von Steuben (5-5, 2-2) with eight rebounds. Brown had eight points and six rebounds. Cruz led the scoring with 16 and had six boards.

“This was a huge win,” Cruz said. “This helped us compete in the conference. Going up 2-2, this is really big for us.”

The Panthers were ahead most of the game, leading by as many as 14 midway through the second quarter. Lane started to press, though, and forced five turnovers in the final minutes to make it only a 32-31 Panther lead at the half.

After a close second half, Lane trailed 56-54 with 40 seconds left. The Indians had two good chances to win it: DiAngelo Perry missed an open 3-pointer, and Vance Rockford then got the offensive rebound but missed a running jumper.

Rockford led Lane (3-5, 2-2) with 12 points, Simon Negash scored 11 and Alec Krilis had seven rebounds.

“I just can’t understand how many offensive rebounds we’re going to give up,” Lane coach Nick LoGalbo said. “When we were pressuring them, we were forcing turnovers and getting in transition. But anytime they got in a halfcourt set, we’d give them more than one shot every possession.”