Web exclusive: THS boys win in last minute
The Tonganoxie High boys basketball team defeated Metro Academy in a way it hadn't defeated any team all season.
The Chieftains made four defensive stops in the last minute of the fourth quarter and held on for a 44-42 victory.
"We only had two team fouls going into the fourth quarter, so we knew that we could up the pressure and not worry about giving them free throws if we fouled," Tonganoxie coach David Walker said. "So we turned up the heat knowing that we had freebies to give and that allowed us to get in those passing lanes."
Defensive stop No. 1: Junior center Austin Smith, who led the Chieftains with 15 points and 11 rebounds, sprinted out of the paint to intercept a pass with 1:00 remaining. Tonganoxie trailed, 42-39.
Smith immediately passed to his outlet, senior guard Keith Wentz-Hall, who drove the length of the floor and got fouled on a layup attempt. Wentz-Hall sank both free throws to cut the Metro Academy lead to one.
Defensive stop No. 2: Gabe Belobrajdic reaped the benefits for being scrappy. The senior forward poked the ball away from a Metro Academy guard, gained possession of the ball and saw open real estate. Belobrajdic, who usually doesn't handle the ball, lost control of his dribble near the three-point line. After regaining control, Belobrajdic converted a layup, giving Tonganoxie its first lead (43-42) since the first quarter.
Defensive stop No. 3: With 20 seconds left, THS junior guard Jace Waters looked like a cornerback jumping the route of a wide receiver. Waters leapt and intercepted a pass that floated in the air longer than Metro Academy coach Robin Sullivan likely wanted.
"I just saw him go to throw it to the other side of the court," Waters said. "It was just an easy pick."
Waters could have gone in for a contested layup with 10 seconds left, but had the presence of mind to dribble back out of the paint and waste more time off the clock.
He was fouled with eight seconds remaining, and converted 1-of-2 free throws, extending the THS lead to 44-42.
Defensive stop No. 4: Walker knew whom Metro Academy wanted to shoot its last shot. Senior guard Caleb Bucher, who had a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds, was Metro Academy's obvious go-to player.
Bucher caught the ball and had to drive the length of the floor.
"We actually were trying to foul (Bucher) because we still had two more fouls to give," Walker said. "We wanted to force the ball into someone else's hands and make them make the shot."
Bucher was so fast that he dribbled past the intending contact. The Chieftains defense clamped down on Bucher, leaving junior post Brad Bell open along the right baseline.
Bell caught the ball with a second left. His shot hit the back iron and sailed away from the basket.
"Any time the ball is released, you kind of get a drop in your stomach as the ball goes up," Walker said.
Tonganoxie improved to 4-9. It was the first time the Chieftains have won back-to-back games all season.
"We're on a run now," Waters said. "Might as well keep it up."