NORTHVILLE - Through the opening 24 minutes of play, the Fort Plain Hilltoppers built a 17-point advantage over the Northville Falcons.
They would need all of those points, plus some clutch free throws, to hold off a determined Falcons squad and take home a 62-56 Western Athletic Conference North victory Monday night at Northville High School.
"That is something we have been emphasizing all year . . . don't quit when you are down," Northville coach John Karbowski III said. "We played hard from start to finish but had one bad quarter and that got us in a hole. We played hard but came up a little short."
The Hilltoppers (5-5 overall, 3-3 WAC) opened the game with a 10-2 run in which Aiden VanLoan connected for two of his three first-quarter 3-pointers.
Midway through the quarter, the Falcons Devin Holmes picked up his second personal foul, relegating him to the bench. With a shorter line up on the floor, the Falcons switched defenses to man-to-man and sparked an 11-7 run to finish the quarter trailing by four, 20-16.
Fort Plain maintained its advantage through the second quarter, building the lead to 13 before Kalob Russell hit a 3-pointer and Nate Edwards scored on a put-back in the final minute to trim Fort Plain's lead to 36-28 at the break.
The Hilltoppers wasted little time putting the lead back in double-digits as Eric Orlogio and Kiernan Briggs led a 13-3 run early in the third quarter to take the lead to 52-35 heading into the final stanza.
Orlogio continued his strong inside play early, scoring Fort Plain's first six points of the quarter.
However, Russell got the Falcons' rally started with a 3-pointer. Danny Reidell came through with six of the Falcons' next eight points to cut Fort Plain's lead down to eight, 56-48 with 2:43 remaining.
Orlogio took the lead back to 10 with his basket before Nick Jonas connected on a 3-pointer and Nate Edwards converted on a pair of free throws to bring the Hilltoppers lead down to five, 58-53, with 1:20 left in regulation.
Fort Plain made the most of its trips to the free-throw line in the closing seconds with Briggs converting on one-of-two attempts and John Stever knocking down three-of-four attempts to counter a 3-pointer from Jonas with 10-seconds remaining to lock up the 62-56 victory.
"John Stever came up big late with some key free throws," Fort Plain coach Casey Russom said. "Those were big . . . it got us to a two-possession lead. Give Northville credit, they hung in there. I thought we played very well for three-and-a-half quarters because they [Northville] are a very good basketball team and we got them down 17 points. It took a good team to do that."
Orlogio scored 10 second-half points to finish 14 for the Hilltoppers, while VanLoan hit for three 3-pointers en route to his 12-point effort and Jon Calbet added 10 points,
Russell paced Northville (3-6 overall, 1-4 WAC) with 15 points, while Reidell finished with 14 points and three rebounds and Jonas had 13 points, three rebounds and two steals.
Northville hosts Canajoharie Wednesday night in a WAC North contest, while Fort Plain will travel to face Mayfield Wednesday.
Fort Plain 62, Northville 56
Fort Plain20 16 16 10 - 62
Northville16 12 7 21 - 56
VanLoan 4-1-12, Briggs 3-1-7, Calbet 3-3-10, Lanier 2-1-5, Orlogio 7-0-14, Florian 2-0-4, Stever 2-3-7, Empie 1-0-3. Totals: 24-9-62.
Edwards 1-4-6, Jonas 5-0-13, Russell 4-4-15, Reidell 5-4-14, Monette 1-0-2, Onzo 2-2-6. Totals: 18-14-56.
3-point goals: Fort Plain 5 (VanLoan 3, Calbert, Empie); Northville 6 (Jonas 3, Russell 3).