HESPERIA — The Hesperia Panthers took advantage of mistakes by Mason County Central on Friday night.

In the end, the Panthers escaped with a 53-52 victory over the visiting Spartans.

“We made some big mistakes at unfortunate times,” said Spartans coach Chris VanderHaag. “I have to give the Panthers credit. They came to play. (Bryce) Billings and (Nicholas) Guarneri are solid players. We had a huge turnover with four seconds on the clock. We called a timeout with none to give, which put the Panthers on the line.” 

The score was tied 52-52 and Billings made one of the two free throw shots to give the Panthers the win. 

It was a tight game throughout. 

Mason County built a 12-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, and each team scored 21 in the second as the Spartans held a 33-30 lead at the half. 

Hesperia grabbed the lead 36-33 after three quarters, but couldn’t put any more distance between them throughout the fourth period leading up to the final. 

Billings tallied a game-high 24 points, while his backcourt partner Guarnieri chipped in with 10. 

Ethan O’Neil had another fine rebounding game with 12 boards. 

Leading the Spartans was Cole VanderHaag with 15 points which included six-of-six free throws, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.  Dakota Sterley added 12 points. Braylin Thurow contributed eight points and two steals. Peyton Merz added seven points and five rebounds. 

Hesperia snapped a two-game losing streak and improved its record to 5-7 on the season and 3-4 in the conference. The Panthers travel to Walkerville for a non-conference game Tuesday night. 

Mason County slipped to 7-7 on the season and 4-3 in the conference. The Spartans have a non-conference game Tuesday at Fremont.