On his previous shot to win the game with just under six seconds remaining, Immaculate Heart Centrals Jude Whalen saw his 3-pointer spiked into the bleachers by Watertown defender Diamond Williams.
But given a second chance, the Cavaliers speedy junior made no mistake. Taking an inbounds pass from teammate Robin Massey with the game on the line, Whalen drove hard to the basket and scooped in a baseline lay-up with 2.1 seconds remaining Friday night to give host IHC an improbable 45-44 comeback win over the Cyclones in a Frontier League A Division game.
Whalens shot, the final two of his game-high 19 points, capped off an incredible comeback by an IHC team that struggled mightily on offense through three quarters, and was on the verge of being blown out several times by its city rivals.
Trailing by as many as 14 points in the third quarter, and by 11 with eight minutes left, the Cavaliers (4-9 overall, 3-6 league) fought back as their full-court pressure defense began forcing WHS turnovers, giving IHC a chance to mount a comeback.
The way we were struggling to make shots, we had to do something to get us going, Whalen said. We forced them to make some bad passes, and finally got going to the basket for some easier shots.
With WHS (3-9, 3-6) turning the ball over on three straight possessions and going scoreless for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, IHC scored eight straight points, drawing to within 36-34 on a Jude Fusilli 3-pointer.
A Whalen steal and layup gave IHC a temporary one-point lead, 40-39, with 2:17 to go. But WHS junior Collin Jorden banked in a three and fed Williams for an easy bucket to give the Cyclones a four-point lead as the clock wound down to 1:20.
Whalen converted two free throws before Williams missed a pair of foul shots. IHCs Massey hit one of two foul shots with 41 seconds left, setting up a wild final minute.
Watertowns Willie Scott had a chance to seal the win at the 28.8-second mark. But he missed a front end of a 1-and-1, giving the Cavaliers a chance at a final, deciding shot.
We had chances to put them away at the line. And we missed so many easy shots around the hoop, said a disappointed WHS coach Jeff Britton. We knew they would pressure us, but we just made a lot of bad decisions, like turning our backs to the basket.
IHC ran the shot clock down to 5.7 seconds when Whalen found him self alone just behind the 3-point arc. But Williams, the Cyclones talented football star, came out of nowhere to send Whalens shot into the stands.
They have a lot of great athletes that can really leap, Whalen said. But I wanted another chance very badly.
IHC coach Mike Delaney asked his team during a final timeout to look in the backcourt for J. P. McClusky, whom he wanted to take the ball to the basket if Whalen or Fusilli were not open. I never thought they would allow Jude to touch the ball, said Delaney of Whalen.
Massey spotted Whalen cutting toward the basket. Whalen found no defensive resistance and rose high for the winning basket.
I thought for sure they would at least foul me because I kind of struggled at the foul line, Whalen said. Its been a tough season, but winning a game like this will make it feel a lot better.
Miles Sexton grabbed 15 rebounds for IHC, which shot just 3-for-24 from the floor the first half and trailed 23-13.
The Cyclones outscored the Cavaliers 13-3 in the second quarter and had all the momentum at halftime.
I hate halftimes when youre playing well, Britton said. We never really gained that spurt we had at the end of the first half.
Mason Phillips scored 11 points and Shyheim Gadson 10 for WHS, which won the earlier meeting by 15 points.