NSA wins home finale but injuries dampen night

Published 4:17 pm Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Senior Night was a results success for the Nansemond-Suffolk boys basketball team Tuesday, with the Saints defeating visiting Bishop Sullivan Catholic 57-52 in a Tidewater Conference game. But those in attendance were more concerned about a pair of injured players than the final score.

NSA led 56-50 with 37 seconds remaining when a loose ball popped from under the home basket and into center court with two players from each team converging on it at full speed. Saints Vincent Hochstrasser and Harrison Spalding smacked heads with a sharp crack and the Crusaders drove back the other way even as the injured pair lay bleeding on the floor.

Hochstrasser gained his feet fairly quickly and stood with hands on knees before again hitting the deck after several seconds. Spalding never left a prone position and was quickly attended to by his team’s trainer as the Saints gained possession after a missed Bishop Sullivan shot and the referees halted play roughly five seconds after the collision.

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Hochstrasser rose after a few minutes and sat on the NSA bench with a cut visible under his right eye and another apparently on the back of his head. The game was delayed for 20 minutes until emergency medical personnel could arrive to attend to Spalding, who appeared to be cut near his left eyebrow. Spalding was immobilized, strapped to a stretcher and wheeled out of the gym to applause.

Both players needed stitches and neither one had a concussion. Fortunately that was as serious as the injuries turned out to be.

The injuries put a damper on a hotly-contested game that saw Bishop Sullivan lead from late in the first quarter until the final seconds of the second, when NSA’s Isaac Ballou hit 1 of 2 free throws to put his team up 29-28 at halftime. The Saints (10-12, 3-5) never again trailed, although the Crusaders twice pulled within two points and got within one with 2:26 remaining.

That margin was set up when Bishop Sullivan’s J.J. Baumgartner sank a 3-point shot, followed by teammate John Karpinski making two free throws after being fouled by NSA’s Hunt Odom. To no one’s surprise, however, Ballou got the ball for the game’s crucial play and delivered as he has consistently throughout his outstanding career.

Charging down the lane with 1:30 to play, Ballou was met in mid-air by Peter McCabe. Despite the collision, Ballou’s shot went in and he was awarded a free throw, which he converted to put the Saints up 54-50. The teams traded missed shots before Ballou made another bucket with a minute to play for a 56-50 lead.

Ballou finished with 28 points, 17 in the second half, and teammate Jim Hassell had 11. Bishop Sullivan was led by post players Tom Hickey, who had 16 points, and Sean Watson, who had 14.