In pursuit of its 36th consecutive home victory, the Arlington High boys basketball team faced a serious challenge from the Winchester Sachems on Friday, Jan. 12. Behind a sticky second-half defense that held the visitors to just 19 points and the late-game heroics of junior co-captain James Gascoigne The Spy Ponders pulled away in the final two minutes for a taut 56-49 win.

 The talented, senior laden Sachems led by co captains Liam Fitzpatrick (13) and Mario DiBendetto (12) had the better of it early, torching Arlington with nine for 12 shooting in a 22 point second quarter and a 30 – 25 lead at the break.

 And so it was. Trailing by seven, 33-26 early in the third quarter, senior co-captain Dom Black led the Spy Ponders in a trademark 90 seconds of mayhem.

 On successive possessions he stole the ball in the Sachems’ backcourt and sailed in for layups.

 Next, with the noise in the Arlington gym at garden level, he trapped his man against the sideline causing a traveling violation. Seconds later the ball wound up in Bensley Joseph’s hands in the right corner. The sophomore promptly buried a 3-pointer, forcing a Sachem timeout and raising the noise level a few more decibels.

 In the 90-second 7-0 run, Arlington had erased the deficit, seized the momentum and led by seven at the end of three 45-38.

 But Winchester was not done and opened the fourth with a 7-0 run of their own behind some stellar play from Fitzpatrick to get even at 45 at the five minute mark.

 With three minutes left Gascoigne converted a difficult lane layup in traffic off a baseline bounce pass from Black to put Arlington up 49 – 45.

 Still Winchester hung in. Junior guard Joe McCarron and DiBendetto answered with a basket apiece to knot it at 49 with two minutes to go.

 Gascoigne came to the rescue with a three-point play the old fashioned way, scoring on a driving lay-up despite a hard foul and sinking the free throw for a 52-49 lead with 1:30 left.

 Then as McCarron lined up a 3-pointer in an effort to tie, Gascoigne came out of nowhere to swat the shot away in mid-flight, and Winchester would score no more.

 With the Sachems forced to foul, Arlington sank four more free throws, the last two by Gascoigne, of course, for the final margin. Gascoigne had scored seven of his 14 points in the final three minutes to put the game away.

 Joseph kept Arlington in the game with 18 points and spectacular defensive work on DiBendetto holding him to one basket in the second half.

 Black had a typical Black night with five steals, five assists and four rebounds to go along with 13 points.