(Town Crier photo/Clifton Garmrath)
Brooks Taylor, playing in his last game as a Mustang, delivered another standout performance by pumping in 35 points, the second highest total in state tournament finals history. But it was the stellar performance by Jordan Phillips that proved to be the difference as the six foot junior came up just one rebound short of a double-double, pouring in a career high 19 points while grabbing nine boards.
Trailing 61-55 with 2:27 remaining, the Mustangs scored the last six points of regulation. Phillips started the rally as he drove the lane for a lay-up to cut the deficit to 61-57 with 2:08 to go. After an Altheimer turnover, Taylor misfired on a 12-foot jumper at the 1:23 mark, and the Red Devils claimed the rebound. But Phillips struck again, coming up with a steal which lead to a foul and a pair of free throws by senior guard Derek Rolland, cutting the lead to 61-59.
The Mustangs got the ball back when Altheimer's Eric Williams was called for traveling with 54 seconds to go, giving BIC the chance for the tie. Taylor, as he has done throughout his whole remarkable career, delivered one more time with a driving lay-up to knot the score at 61-61 with 30 seconds left.
The Red Devils appeared content to play for the last shot, but Darnell Manuel was off the mark on a 10-footer, giving the Mustangs one last chance for victory in regulation. Taylor's 15-footer with three Red Devils hanging all over the 6'3" State Tournament Most Valuable Player, fell short, forcing overtime.
Neither team could find the range in the overtime period until Phillips sank a pair of free throws to put the Mustangs ahead 63-61 with 2:09 to go. Manuel, who led the Red Devils with 17 points, answered by hitting a fade away 15-footer to tie the score 63-63 with 1:38 left.
The Red Devils chose to foul Taylor with 35.3 seconds to go, sending the Mustang star to the line to shoot the double bonus. Taylor connected on both charity tosses, putting BIC ahead to stay, 65-63. A.J. Burton, who chipped in 16 points for Altheimer, missed on a 12-footer, and once again Phillips came up big, grabbing the rebound. Eric Williams was whistled for the foul, sending Phillips to the line to shoot another double bonus with 24.1 seconds left where the lanky junior sank both foul shots to push the margin to 67-63.
Manuel quickly answered for the Red Devils by driving for two, cutting the margin to 67-65 with 13.2 seconds to play. Having no choice but to foul, Altheimer sent Taylor back to the line with 9.2 seconds left where he sank one of two shots.
Mustang Coach Bill Taylor, who claimed his third state title as a head coach, called time out and instructed his team to foul in hopes of preventing the Red Devils from hitting a tying three pointer. But Altheimer managed to break the Mustang press, getting away two three point attempts in the final seconds, neither of which found their mark.
"We are just absolutely blown away by this championship," said BIC Coach Bill Taylor. "We beat an outstanding team today. I can't say enough about our starting five seniors and everything they have given to our program over the years. Obviously, Jordan Phillips off the bench today was huge. He was a perfect 7-7 from the floor and came up with a couple of huge steals late in the game. We are just so honored to be State Champions again."
"I am more excited about this championship than the other two," continued Taylor. "This is a good way for Brooks to end his career, and I am just thankful to the Lord for giving us this opportunity. Last year was kind of weird, we won so easy. This year we fought so hard just to get it to overtime, this will always be special."
BIC jumped to an early 8-4 lead but Altheimer rallied and held an 11-10 edge after the first period. The two teams slugged it out in the second period, but Manuel's three pointer with 31 seconds left in the half gave the Red Devils a 29-26 edge at intermission. The third quarter ended with the two teams tied 43-43.
Altheimer scored the first six points of the fourth quarter, forcing a Mustang timeout. Taylor rallied his club by scoring eight straight points to keep BIC within striking distance, setting up BIC's late rally to pull out the victory.
Hunter Smith scored six points for the Mustangs on a pair of three pointers while fellow seniors Cord Rose and Derek Rolland pitched in four points apiece. Rolland also dished out nine assists while grabbing five rebounds. The Mustangs finished the afternoon only 3-17 from beyond the three point arc but shot a respectable 42.6 percent from the field, including a 14-27 performance in the second half. BIC finished the night 17-21 from the foul line for a 81 percent clip.
Altheimer had two other players in double figures as Eric Williams and Deron Goodloe pitched in 10 points each. The Red Devils connected on just 3-16 three pointers while shooting 51.7 percent from the field, going 28-54. Altheimer went to the line just six times, connecting on two, all coming in the first half.
Altheimer held a slim 32-29 edge on the boards.
"BIC did a great job today," said Red Devil Coach Kevin Hunt. "The shots just didn't go our way. We had our chances, but the shots wouldn't fall."
"I can't say enough about the job Cord (Rose) and Derek (Rolland) did defensively for us this year," continued Taylor. "They have been tremendous. I can't say enough about the way Hunter Smith shot the ball all through the tournament. He didn't shoot it especially well today, but leading up to today that's what got us here."
"I am really excited for us five seniors," said Brooks Taylor. "There have been a lot of people who wouldn't put us in the state championship game. We did it and it's a great way to close out our careers. I've always wanted to win a state championship, but I never would have dreamed we would have two. I just want to thank these other four seniors and J.P. (Phillips). He really stepped up today and was the difference."
The Mustangs finish the year 36-5 while the Red Devils close out with a 26-8 mark.