For the Daily News
Altamont found out Saturday what St. Elmo discovered the night before and Cowden-Herrick experienced back in November.
Tiny Patoka (enrollment 79) is no pushover.
The scrappy Warriors (11-5) rallied from a seven-point deficit in the final four minutes to upset the Indians 61-60 in a wild nonconference matinee.
Johnnie Clift capped Patoka's comeback - and his 25-point, 11-rebound performance - with a pair of clutch free throws with six seconds to go, and Altamont finished a point short of forcing overtime after Derek Jahraus' 3-pointer bounced through the hoop at the buzzer.
The Indians, who have now lost three of their last four, never truly got going on Saturday after a solid effort on Friday in a win against North Clay.
"Our heads were in the clouds from the first second," Altamont coach John Niebrugge said. "Is that my fault? I'll take some blame, but sooner or later the boys have to figure it out on their own a little bit. We'll figure what it takes in practice."
The win was the Warriors third this season against an upper-division National Trail Conference opponent, and coach Joey Eddy's team has also knocked off a 13-3 Cisne team.
"They just beat St. Elmo last night, so we knew they were a decent team," Niebrugge said. "Hats off to coach Eddy and Patoka. They played a good game."
The Warriors jumped out to an early eight-point lead, 13-5, thanks to some nifty passing, only to watch the Indians battle back with a 16-2 run that had them leading by six.
Altamont took a five-point lead into halftime despite shooting just 32 percent from the field and turning the ball over eight times in the first 16 minutes.
The Warriors coughed the ball up 10 times in the first half, however, and made just 33 percent of their field goals.
Patoka found its touch in the third quarter, hitting 8 of 12 from the field, helping it rally to take its first lead since the third quarter.
Altamont finished the third on a high note though, as Logan Hill's 3-pointer evened the game at 38, and the Indians finally appeared to be pulling away in the fourth.
After Clift missed a pair of free throws - and a chance to tie the game at 47 - Ziegler found a cutting Cole Borders for a layup that put Altamont up 49-45.
Ziegler followed with a bucket in transition off a Warriors miss, and he hit 1 of 2 free throws after causing a Patoka turnover directly thereafter, giving the Indians a 52-45 lead with 4:18 to go.
Things looked bleak for the host team at that point, but Eddy was able to keep his team's spirits up after calling a timeout.
"I told them, ', we've been here before,'" Eddy said. "We've been down in just about every game we've played. Our defense has been solid. I said, "You guys will get stops.' And I had faith they'd hit shots. They don't give up on each other, and they don't quit playing hard. That goes a long way."
Jake Orrell nailed a wide-open 3-pointer on Patoka's first possession following the timeout, kicking off an 11-0 Patoka run capped by a circus shot by Clift in transition that may have signaled it was simply going to be the Warriors' day.
Clift's momentum was carrying him out of bounds on the play, but he somehow managed to get the ball to fall for a shot that had Patoka up 56-52 heading into the final minute of play.
Ziegler hit a pair of free throws with 33 seconds to go to draw Altamont to within two, but Patoka found itself in the double bonus after Wadkins was fouled on the floor with 30 seconds to go, and Wadkins capitalized by hitting both his free-throw attempts.
Ziegler came up with another big play on Altamont's next possession - this time a 3-pointer to draw the Indians to within a point with 20 seconds to go - but after Wadkins made 1 of 2 free throws, Ziegler could not get a potential game-tying floater in the lane to fall with six seconds remaining. There was contact on the play, but no foul was whistled.
"It was a four-footer, he elevated over the top and just short-armed it," Niebrugge said. "All night, I believe, he was kind of expecting a foul, and they weren't getting it. ÉThat play was the culmination of the whole game."
Clift was immediately fouled after Ziegler's miss, and he got a pair of free throws to fall - the latter rimming around for what seemed like an eternity before dropping in - to make it a two-possession game. Altamont simply ran out of time after that.
The Indians wound up hitting just 2 of 8 field goals and committing three turnovers in the final four minutes of play, two big reasons their seven-point lead slipped away.
"Right now, we're not mentally tough enough to put somebody away when we can," Niebrugge said. "We were up eight or 10 at one point, and you have to put somebody away. We didn't do that."
It didn't help that the Indians were without the services of 6-foot-3 senior forward Jon Kuhns, who missed the game due to an interview for a scholarship at SIU-Carbondale. Kuhns scored a team-high 20 points on Friday against North Clay and has been a force inside all year for Altamont.
Clift hit 10 of 14 from the field, a big reason Patoka hit 51 percent from the floor as a team (22 of 43). The Warriors made just 14 of 27 free throws, but they were 10 of 16 from the line in the fourth quarter, including four of their last five.
Jake Orrell added 12 for Patoka, while Wadkins scored all 11 of his points in the second half.
Ziegler had 20 points for Altamont, but no other Indians player reached double figures. Jake Seidel came close with eight points, as did Borders, who had the same total off the bench.
The Indians will host Beecher City on Tuesday.
Patoka 61, Altamont 60
Altamont 12 13 13 22 - 60
Patoka 13 7 18 23 - 61
Altamont (12-5) - Ziegler 6-17 7-9 20, Goeckner 2-6 0-0 4, McGinnis 1-3 0-0 3, Seidel 2-7 4-4 8, Hill 2-3 0-0 5, Borders 4-7 0-1 8, Mayhaus 2-3 3-6 7, Jahraus 1-5 2-2 5. Totals 20-51 16-22 60.
Patoka (11-5) - Clift 10-14 4-7 25, Felchlia 3-5 0-0 7, Allen 0-2 3-5 3, Wadkins 3-10 5-9 11, Orrell 5-8 1-4 12, Dr.Back 1-1 1-2 3, Dy.Back 0-1 0-0 0, Miller 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-43 14-27 61.
3-point goals - Altamont 4 (Ziegler, McGinnis, Hill, Jahraus), Patoka 3 (Clift, Felchilia, Orrell). Rebounds - Altamont 27 (Borders 7, Mayhaus 7, Ziegler 4), Patoka 25 (Clift 11, Orrell 6). Turnovers - Patoka 16, Altamont 15. Team Fouls - Patoka 20, Altamont 22. JV - Altamont 64, Patoka 29.