With his team trailing by two points with just 8.1 seconds remaining in the game and the ball, the Wildcats were looking to set up an outside shot. When sophomore guard Chase Garrett couldn’t find one, he took it to hole, but his shot fell short.
Junior forward Shaun Stansell got the rebound and was fouled on the putback, sending him to the free-throw line with 2.3 seconds left.
Mackey said it crossed his mind to call timeout when Stansell secured the rebound before the foul, but now he’s glad he didn’t.
Stansell calmly sank both free throws to tie the game at 53, then he picked off Panther junior forward Will Westbrook’s long pass up the court to force overtime.
In the extra session, the Wildcats (11-13) went on an 11-3 run to take a 64-56 victory.
“We kept going for the win with the threes, and I wanted to call timeout when Shaun got the rebound, but I let it go,” Coach Mackey said. “That ‘W’ covers a lot of mistakes. Both teams battled, and hat’s off to them. It was a good game.”
Stansell, who came away with four points in the second half, wasn’t the only Wildcat who came up big. Senior forward Devon Howard put the Wildcats on his back and led them with 18 points. Ten of Howard’s points came in the second half.
Garrett connected on three treys and contributed 17 points. Junior guard Dylan Mackey finished with 14 points.
Those are just the type of performances Coach Mackey wants the Wildcats to have at this point of the season.
“Chase hit some threes when Dylan wasn’t knocking them down, and it was a good confidence-builder for him,” Coach Mackey said. “Devon had 18, and we kept calling his number at the elbow. We went inside a couple of times to him and he carried us. He’s a senior who’s never played. It’s good for him to work his way in from third string to second string to first string. He’s helping us.
“It’s a huge win for us. We’ve got momentum heading into the area tournament. They fought and they’ve got something to show for it instead of just fighting and coming up short. We can use this going into next week.”
The Wildcat win spoiled an 18-point, seven-rebound performance from Spring Garden senior center Jake Grogan. Logan Whorton also had a solid outing, finishing with 15 points, including three 3-pointers for the Panthers (15-12).
“You’ve got to give Sand Rock credit. They made their free throws down the stretch and made the big plays,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. “We missed free throws, turned the ball over and took ourselves out of the simple things we do.
“We really got hand-tied there at the end. We didn’t have a lot of things we could do. They were doing a good job of stopping our inside game, and we kind of became a little stale on the outside. We couldn’t get anything in transition. We were getting some transition buckets early, but couldn’t get anything in transition in the second half.”
As Austin said, the Panthers got their inside game going inside early on. They held a 15-11 advantage at the end of the first quarter and a 32-28 lead at halftime.
Sand Rock charged out in front by a bucket at the end of the third quarter at 40-38, setting the stage for some fourth-quarter drama.
Senior guard Dakota Mabry added nine points for the Wildcats. Junior guard/forward Jacob Black tallied six points for the Panthers. Senior guard Josh Hale and junior point guard Will Ivey both finished with five points for the Panthers.
“After the game, I told our players this is as close to a playoff game as you’re going to get this late in the season,” Austin said. “The team who executes on both ends of the floor is going to win. That’s exactly what Sand Rock did, and that’s what we didn’t do at the end.”
Spring Garden girls 34, Sand Rock girls 32
SPRING GARDEN – Sand Rock girls basketball coach Lisa Bates can only wonder what might have been.
Three times in the closing seconds at Spring Garden on Thursday, the Class 2A, No. 9 Lady Wildcats had opportunities to tie the game or take the lead.
Three times, they came up short, falling by the final of 34-32.
“At the end, we couldn’t ask for better opportunities to try and tie it up,” Bates said. “The girls turned up the pressure there and did a good job. We got two five-second calls. I feel like we could have made some better decisions down the stretch when it was close, but Spring Garden’s a good team and they play well at home.”
One culprit for the Lady Wildcats’ (18-7) loss Bates pointed to was free-throw shooting.
“We missed six straight free throws – two of them front ends of a one-and-one – and they hit theirs,” Bates said. “They hit 11 of 12, and we were 4-for-10. My girls shoot hundreds and hundreds of free throws, but they didn’t hit them tonight.”
Spring Garden freshman forward Tykeah Leek sank two shots from the charity stripe with 26.4 seconds to go, giving the Lady Panthers (14-12) a 34-30 advantage.
Sand Rock trimmed its deficit to 34-32 on a jumper by freshman guard Madison McCullough with 9.2 seconds left. That bucket followed a five-second call on an in-bound pass by Lady Panther sophomore guard Darian Gaines.
Gaines attempted to in-bound the ball again with 8.2 seconds to go, but again, Sand Rock turned up its defensive pressure to force another five-second call.
The Lady Panthers forced a jump ball, but possession went to the Lady Wildcats with 1.7 seconds left.
McCullough drove the baseline, but her shot fell short at the buzzer, allowing Spring Garden to escape with the win.
“Yeah, we won, but I’m really not pleased with the way we played at all,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. “We had too many turnovers and too many breakdowns on defense and offense at key times. We couldn’t get the ball in bounds and had two back-to-back five-second calls. I don’t know if I’d feel any worse if we had gotten beat. I didn’t like what I saw. We’re glad we won, but I’m not satisfied with it.
“Sand Rock did a pretty good job of taking us out of some of that, but most of the dysfunction was ourselves.”
Gaines and Leek led the Lady Panthers with eight points. Leek also had eight rebounds.
Junior guard Haley Motes added seven points, six boards, four assists and two steals. Sophomore guard Emory Reedy also finished with seven points.
Freshman guard Emily Langley led Sand Rock with 11 points, including three treys. McCullough contributed 10 points. Sophomore guard Courtney Rowe finished with nine points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals.
“That game was fantastic for us. It gets us ready for the area tournament and beyond, I hope,” Bates said. “We need those close ones. We need to know what to do under pressure when we’re down by two or up by two. Blowouts either way right now will not help us right now. This will help us.”