AVELLA -- Statistics indicate that Mapletown's boys basketball team has improved since last season but through their first 16 games the Maples didn't have a win to show for it.
They do now.
Landan Stevenson's two free throws with 1:05 remaining broke a 48-48 tie and propelled Mapletown to a 51-48 victory at Avella in a Section 2-A game Tuesday night.
Stevenson totaled 11 points, six assists, six steals and five rebounds, and Ryan Tuttle also scored 11 points with three blocked shots as the Maples (1-9, 1-16) rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit. Matt Atwood contributed 10 points and seven rebounds, and Chuck Lash added nine points.
"It feels really good," Mapletown coach Chad Stevenson said. "That was a good team win. I keep telling our players the hard work is going to pay off and I think they're finally seeing that now."
Going into the game, the Maples had a 12-point better differential per game compared to last season and Stevenson's squad has clearly been more competitive since the calendar turned.
Mapletown lost to Carmichaels 80-53 in December but by only 59-54 on Jan. 10. The Maples fell to Geibel Catholic 81-47 and 80-53 in December tournament games, but lost to the Gators 76-64 and 76-59 in section play.
"I know a lot of people just look at the wins and losses but I think we've come a long way," coach Stevenson said. "I'm really proud of the guys for sticking to it. We're definitely getting to be a better basketball team."
The Eagles (1-8, 4-15) outscored Mapletown 20-8 in the second quarter thanks in part to a Justin Dryer buzzer-beating 3-pointer to take a 28-17 halftime lead.
Tuttle and Atwood scored six points apiece in the third quarter as the Maples used an 18-7 advantage to pull even at 35-35 heading into the final frame.
Tuttle's jump shot put Mapletown in front, 37-35, with 6:50 left and the lead would change hands six more times from there.
Max Vanata's 3-pointer gave the Maples a 42-39 lead with 5:21 remaining. A driving basket by Gabe Lis put Avella ahead 45-44 with 3:40 left. Vanata hit a jump shot to get Mapletown back on top 20 seconds later. Lis made two free throws to give the Eagles a 47-46 lead with 2:51 left.
Lance Stevensen, playing with torn ligaments in his right ankle that will require surgery on Feb. 5, and Lash both hit one of two foul shots to push the Maples back in front, 48-47. Avella's Brandon Samol made one of two free throws to tie it with 1:29 remaining but Landan Stevenson drew a foul 24 seconds later and put Mapletown ahead to stay.
Tuttle blocked a potential game-tying shot by the Eagles with 40 seconds left, Stevenson gathered in the loose ball, was fouled and made one of two shots to set the final score.
Lis led all scorers with 23 points and Dryer tallied 10 points.
"These kids are resilient," said coach Stevenson. "They keep fighting and they believe in each other and what we're trying to teach them. It feels really good to get that monkey off our back."