Javin Boles got his groove back on Friday night.
After battling through a rough month of December, the Temple High School senior standout closed the calendar year on a high note, pouring in a game-high 26 points to rally the Tigers to a 47-42 overtime win against Bremen in the third-place game of the 42nd Annual Hilburn-Patterson Haralson County Invitational Tournament.
Having missed a handful of games, including the entire SMI Carroll County Christmas Classic due to illness, Boles helped the Tigers (3-8) shake off a sluggish start Friday, sitting on five points until the midway mark of the second quarter before picking up some steam just before the half.
Boles gave his squad a huge lift upon converting a four-point play with 0.8 ticks left before the break, knocking down an off-balanced 3-pointer where Bremen (4-8) was whistled for the foul. After hitting the free throw, Temple trailed just 16-15 going into halftime after closing the second quarter on a 7-1 spurt.
The Blue Devils answered coming out of the locker room, though, opening the second half on an 11-3 run to build a nine-point lead and regain momentum — momentarily, at least.
In a true gut-check performance, Temple came back in resounding fashion by scoring the final six points of the third quarter and eventually taking the lead on a trio of free throws from Boles with 2:54 left in regulation.
Bremen junior Charlie Crafton knotted the game back up at 35-all off a turnover on an in-bounds play and Boles missed an opportunity to close the game at the free-throw line with 8.4 seconds left, sending the contest into overtime.
Boles would redeem himself in the extra period, going 8-for-10 from the charity stripe to seal the deal and give David Cottrell's squad a much-needed 'W' heading into Region 5-AA play next week.
"I felt like we've been a little snakebit this year with Javin's sickness and some other things not going our way. But we had five hard practices over the holiday break and I felt like we got better defensively," Cottrell said. "Then we talked about offensively having a little more patience and that's going to lead to even better defense. (Friday) was kind of a perfect example of that. We finally showed a little more patience offensively and then I thought our defense was outstanding."
Cottrell said it was good to see the energy from Boles on Friday, as he is beginning to show signs of his old self after being sidelined for a few weeks.
"I think so. His strength is coming back, his conditioning is starting to come back. He definitely stepped up and made big shots and big plays for us (Friday)," Cottrell said.
For Bremen head coach Josh Carter, Friday's tournament finale was an all too familiar feeling to close out the first half of the season — not being able to finish.
"It's the sixth game where we were in it the last three or four minutes of the ballgame and we're either winning or tied and we've got to finish. We've lost eight and six of them have been with a few minutes to go and we've been tied or winning and we have an opportunity to make free throws, make lay-ups and we don't finish," Carter said.
Crafton, who was named to the all-tournament team, led Bremen with 16 points, followed by Jason Houston with 10.
Along with the 26 from Boles, also an all-tournament selection, Temple received an eight-point effort from Elijah Thomas.
Cottrell is hopeful that Friday's win serves as a springboard for bigger and better things down the road heading into 2018 and Region 5-AA action on Tuesday when the Tigers play host to Lamar County.
"Absolutely. To play a good team like them, Bremen is a good basketball team. They've got players at all levels. We knew if we could get a little confidence (Friday), it would hopefully give us a little boost going into Tuesday when region tips off," Cottrell said.