NILES - Ask any knowledgeable coach and they will tell you that it is difficult to beat a team three times in one season.
This philosophy was in the favor of the Hubbard Eagles when they traveled to Niles on Wednesday.
The Eagles fell to the Red Dragons two times prior in the regular season but they broke that streak, defeating Niles, 63-60, and improving their record to 6-17.
Niles concludes its season at 10-13.
Coach Rick Fox praised how his team reacted to the pressure.
"They are a very good team," Fox said. "They knocked down some big shots but we told our kids that they have to respond. They did a nice job responding to it. In the past we kind of struggled with that when a team would go on a good run. We kind of folded and had a bad quarter. They came out. I'm so proud of my guys tonight. They responded. I couldn't be more proud of them."
In the first quarter, the Eagles took charge and gained a 13-point margin on Niles.
In the second, Niles turned on the offense. In the frame, the Red Dragons drained five 3-pointers - three from Justin Lopes and one each from Leonard Bryant and Cameron Kane. By the end of the half, Niles outscored Hubbard by 11 points and cut the Eagle lead to 34-32.
Lopes finished with 14 points.
At the end of the third, Niles led, 47-46. However, the Red Dragons couldn't contain the Eagles enough to come away with the win. Four Hubbard players finished the game with double-digit points.
"They came out swinging, we recovered," Fox said. "We came out swinging, they recovered. I knew it was going to be toe-to-toe down at the end. We responded and we hit some key shots down at the end."
Isiah Scott nailed seven shots - all in the paint - for 14 points for Hubbard.
"Honestly, going into the fourth quarter it was pretty tough," Scott said. "We folded the last two games they played us, but we couldn't take it anymore. We had to win this. We had the momentum on our side. We had to come and get it."
Hubbard's Derek Kopanic finished with 14. Rocco Jones and Cole Bencetic each added 10.
Approaching the fourth quarter, down by one point, Scott admitted he was nervous for the 8 minutes.
"Yes, definitely," Scott said. "Just because of the fact that it is hard to get back on a good team, and they are a good team. We had to buckle down and play defense. So we came down, our team came together and we got it."
Niles coach Ron Price knew this game was going to be a close one.
"It was close at the half and it was still close at the end of the third from there on in," Price said. "It was just a battle. It was just a play here, play there and a shot here, shot there and the game is different. We had a number of chances to bump it. We had some wide open shots and they didn't go in. It came down to the last four minutes and to who was going to make some shots. We have been in some battles this year and that was no exception."
The Eagles continue to take on Canfield on Saturday. Scott is eager for the preparation.
"These two days have to be the hardest practices that we ever played before," Scott said. "It's Canfield and they know what we are coming with and we know what they are coming with. So we have to buckle down and play."