March 1, 2014 Updated: March 1, 2014 at 10:00 pm
When James Lane addressed his Doherty team following a tough, 51-47 loss to Legend on Saturday night, none of his speech pertained to any aspect of a seventh single-digit setback of the recently completed season.
"It's a lot bigger than just this game," the third-year Spartans coach said. "We talked about this senior group. Two years ago, we were 8-15, but they kept fighting back and got us back to this point. It was more of a talk about our journey that we've had together."
Monroe Porter scored a game-high 17 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:36 left, and No. 5 Legend limited No. 4 Doherty to only four field goals in the second half, as the Titans emerged with a road victory.
Tynan Velasquez had just given Doherty (16-8) its first lead of the night at 46-45 with two free throws with 3:07 left. A large crowd then started its chant to lift the Spartans' defense, only to watch Porter nail a 3-pointer from the right wing, his fourth of the night, to give the Titans (17-8) the lead for good.
"To hit a shot right after they took the lead, it's kind of a letdown to the other team," Porter said. "It's awesome to get them out of their flow right away after they got back in the game."
After Doherty senior Shane Fox hit one of two free throws to cut the deficit to 48-47, Zach Mihalicz hit an open layup off a nice pass from Elijah Cherrington that made it a 50-47 Titans lead with 1:05 left
Mihalicz had 12 points, while Riley Matticks had 10 for Legend, which will meet undefeated Fossil Ridge (24-0) on Wednesday.
Doherty was unable to solve the Legend defense at the end, a prevailing theme in the final 16 minutes in which the Spartans made just four of 17. They stayed in it by hitting 13 of 18 free throws.
"It had nothing to do with effort," Spartans senior center Jason Anderson said. "We came together and played hard. It wasn't our night. They didn't give us anything easily, and we got a few open shots that we couldn't hit. It was a tough, grind-it-out game that we were on the wrong side of."
Anderson and Velasquez scored 12 points apiece to lead the Spartans offense.
Doherty rallied from an early five-point deficit to forge a 14-14 tie at the end of the first quarter on a 3-pointer and drive through the lane by freshman Brevin Brimble. In the closing seconds of the first half, Fox hit a 3-pointer that closed the deficit to 27-25 at halftime.
Trailing 39-35 heading into the fourth quarter, Doherty mounted a comeback, and a 3-pointer by Velasquez tied the game at 41 with 5:15 remaining.
But Legend had an answer each time to stop the momentum.
Following the Velasquez long-range shot, Porter drew a foul and made one of two free throws, then connected a 3-pointer the next time down the court for a 45-41 Titans lead with 4:05 left.
Then the Legend defense tightened up, just enough to escape with a win.
"One of the things we talked about was being a great defensive team," Legend coach Kevin Boley said. "Lately, it hadn't been that way, so I was pleased with how we stepped up and defended."