Alton got the big outside shots it needed late in the game, but Thayer countered with some equally big shots from the free throw line to hold off the Comets 55-52 Jan. 2 at Thayer.
Logan Simpson drilled two 3-pointers in the final 45 seconds of play for Alton, the first one pulling his team within two points, 51-49.
But the Bobcats managed to keep the Comets from getting any closer in the waning seconds of the night thanks to two free throws each from Lance Schneider and Matt Kojdecki in the last 24 seconds of play. Kojdecki's (six points) second charity toss pushed Thayer on top 55-49 with 11 seconds showing on the fourth-period clock.
Simpson closed the book on the contest by canning his fourth 3-ball of the game with one tick left, leaving Alton four points shy of a win. Simpson paced the Comets with a game-high 19 points.
Any time these two Oregon County neighbors hook up, there's bound to be some fireworks on display, and the two squads' first meeting of the new year was no exception.
Thayer held command of the lead for basically the whole first half, with a trey from Schneider (seven points) building the Cats' advantage to 25-17 with 2:08 remaining until the half.
Then Alton went on one of its patented runs, an 11-2 burst, to swipe the lead. Simpson's first long-range bomb of the night found the bottom of the net as the horn sounded, sending the teams to intermission with the Comets in front 28-27, their first lead of the evening.
As it turns out, Thayer had an answer for Simpson's 3-point bursts in the form of Blake Horton. Every time it looked like the Comets would gather a full head of steam in the second half, Horton would pull up and jack a big trey to keep Alton chasing Thayer. Horton paced the Bobcats with 18 points.
The Comets had taken what turned out to be their biggest lead of the game, 37-31, on a Simpson triple at the 4:22 mark of the third period.
Horton then connected on back-to-back treys to lock the game at 37-all.
Michael Lowther had a huge outing for Thayer, and his steal and old-fashioned 3-point play near the end of the third gave the Cats their first lead of the second half, 40-39, after three. Lowther tossed in 15 points for the Cats.
Alton got off to a bit of a shaky start to the final frame by stepping on the end line, walking with the ball and then missing a pair of free throws during its first three touches of the frame.
Despite this, the Comets still managed to pull even at the 4:33 mark thanks to a 3-ball from Ben Whitten (11 points).
Not letting the Comets grab an extra dose of momentum, Horton blasted a triple next time down the floor to give Thayer a lead that it would not let go of in the last four minutes of play.
Lowther proved his worth during crunch time for the Cats with a series of three big plays.
With Alton trailing by one, 47-46, Lowther hit a free throw to make it a two-point advantage for Thayer with 1:58 left.
With the ball out of bounds under their own hoop, the Comets' inbounds pass sailed over everyone's head, landing on Thayer's side of the court. An alert Lowther scooped up the ball and pitched it to a streaking Garrett Smith (six points), who sank a layup to keep Thayer ahead 50-46.
Lowther capped off this nice stretch of good play by finishing a traditional 3-point play with a minute left to extend the Bobcats' lead to 51-46.
Though the Comets would cut this lead to two via Simpson's next trey, Thayer hit its free throws when needed to fend off a spirited group of Comets.
It looked like the game might not be close enough in the first period for Alton to hang around long enough to make a late charge.
Eric Veatch scored all seven of his points for the night in the first frame, helping the Bobcats to a 12-4 lead after one.
Lane Brewer (12 points) tossed in all four of Alton's points in the stanza from the low blocks, as the outside shots that the Comets were taking were just not finding their mark in the first eight minutes of play.
Things from beyond the arc were a bit kinder to the Comets in the second period, as Whitten drilled back-to-back triples to keep Alton from falling into a hold too deep to even think about climbing out of.
Nate Heotis, Jon McIntare, Jacob Alexander and Seth Roberts finished with two points each for the Comets.