After trailing by as many 24 points in the second half and 18 entering the fourth quarter, something changed for the Capital City Cavaliers.
"I challenged our guys," Capital City coach Darrin Young said. "I said, 'Hey look, this is not gonna get any easier. Not this game and not our opponents coming up.'
"I asked them, 'How bad do you want to compete? Where's your heart? Where's your desire to just fight and want to be competitive?' I thought we did a decent job of that in the fourth and why you saw the fight."
The Cavaliers ramped up their defensive pressure and began to torch the net from 3-point range to get within two, but Strafford made its free throws in the final minute to close out a 74-66 victory Saturday in the River Region Credit Union Shootout at Capital City.
The Indians' lead reached 24 points when JD Hunt scored inside for a 52-29 lead with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter.
Then Capital City flipped the switch.
Ashden Cason made a 3-pointer from the corner and Robert Gray got a steal and layup seconds later.
Cason added a steal and layup in the closing seconds of the third quarter to cut the margin to 18 at 54-36.
"When there's more desperation involved to make a comeback I think the attention to detail is greater," Young said.
Corde Bown, who scored a game-high 28 points, scored a quick six points with a 3 and a three-point play early in the fourth.
As the clock dipped under 5 minutes, Mitch Renfrow made the first of his two fourth-quarter 3s to pull Capital City within single digits for the first time since the 2:37 mark of the first quarter.
Renfrow's second 3 came at the 4:06 mark of the fourth, making the score 62-56.
Young credited sophomore John Hightower for providing extra energy off the bench.
"He brought us a spark that I think the rest of the team kind of fed off of," Young said. "He's been doing a really good job of that lately, so hopefully we'll see if we can continue to implement him into the rotation."
The margin was six with a couple minutes left after a Robert Gray floater and Cason drained a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 67-64 with 1:32 remaining.
Capital City got as close as 68-66 when Brown drove in for a layup with 1:01 on the clock.
Strafford answered with a pair of free throws each from AK Rael and Vance Mullins, plus a layup from Teagan Lawler as Capital City missed its final three shots.
Strafford led 13-1 just a few minutes in and 27-9 at the end of the first quarter.
The score was 41-19 at halftime.
"Kudos to their coach and their staff for how well they executed offensively," Young said. "We're going to see teams like that. They battled, not only with their perimeter movement but even on the paint how they made us work for baskets on the offensive end. It was a really good test for us, so I'm glad we played the game."
Mullins led Strafford (4-1) with 17 points and seven rebounds to earn the game's MVP award. Rael and Lawler each scored 15 points, and Seth Soden added 12 points.
Cason and Gray each reached double figures for the Cavaliers with 19 and 10 points, respectively.
Capital City (5-1) will host Hickman on Monday. The JV game will start at 6 p.m. with the varsity to follow around 7:30 p.m.