Town Crier Sports Staff
In a season of missed opportunities, Buffalo Island Central saw their chances for a state championship three-peat slip away as the Dermott Rams closed the door on the Mustang's season with a 60-57 victory Wednesday afternoon at the Class AA State Basketball Tournament in Danville.
The Mustangs, hoping to claim the school's fifth state title, grabbed a 49-48 lead with 3:44 left in the game when senior Lance Davis took a nice pass from fellow senior Jordan Phillips, kissing it off the glass. The Rams went back on top when Jonathan Rush sank a pair of free throws at the 3:04 mark.
Phillips, who led BIC with 20 points, answered with a driving lay-up, giving the Mustangs their last lead of the game, 51-50, with 2:42 to go. Rush went back to the free throw line at the 2:17 mark and calmly sank another pair of free throws, putting Dermott up for good, 52-51.
The Mustangs failed to score on their next trip down the floor, and a foul sent the Rams' Jeffrey Davis to the line, where the senior hit 1-2 attempts to push Dermott's lead to 53-51 with 1:29 remaining.
Paul Datson gave the Rams a five point lead by picking off an errant Mustang pass, driving the length of the court for the basket while being fouled. Datson's free throw completed the three point play, giving Dermott a 56-51 lead with 1:11 to go.
Senior Terry Roach brought BIC back with a three pointer from the right wing to pull the Mustang's to within 56-54 with 57 seconds left, but the Rams went back up 58-54 when Datson sank a pair of free throws with 23.9 seconds remaining.
Dermott gave BIC one last chance when Jordan Griggs was fouled on a three point attempt with 11 seconds left in the game. The six foot junior nailed all three pressure packed free throws to bring the Mustangs to within one, 58-57.
After a time out, Buffalo Island Central set up their full court press, hoping to come away with a steal, but Dermott's Rush broke free behind the Mustang defense and scored on an uncontested lay-up with five seconds left, giving the Rams a 60-57 advantage.
The Mustangs had one last chance to send the game into overtime, but senior Garrett Qualls' three pointer at the buzzer fell short, ending BIC's chances for another state title.
"We have been close so many times this season," said Mustang Coach Bill Taylor. "We have lost so many games by three, five, six points. It was another game where we didn't take advantage of our opportunities. We missed a five footer with about 2:00 to go that would have given us the lead, we had a break down on defense with 11 econds left that gave them a lay-up, and we missed several chances to get offensive rebounds after free throws. This was a win-able game against a good, not a great, opponent. All year long we have seemed to be not one play away from winning, but a quarter of a play away. We have just come so close so many times," said Taylor.
The game was close throughout with BIC taking a 14-11 lead after the first period as Phillips scored eight points to spark the early Mustang run.
BIC grabbed their biggest lead of the game, 22-18, with 3:34 left before halftime when Phillips sank 1-2 charity tosses, but the Rams battled back, scoring the game's next nine points, to take a 27-22 lead. Datson's three pointer at the 1:19 mark capped off the 9-0 Ram run. BIC closed to within one when Roach drained a three pointer just before halftime as the Rams took a 29-28 lead into the dressing room.
Phillips put the Mustangs ahead early in the third quarter by sticking in an offensive rebound while being fouled on the play. Phillip's free throw gave BIC a 31-29 lead at the 7:42 mark. The two clubs battled on even terms the rest of the quarter before Dermott went up 43-38 on a Brandon Norvell bucket with 1:27 remaining in the quarter. BIC answered by scoring the last four points of the period with back to back buckets from Phillips and Davis, leaving the Mustangs down by only one, 43-42, entering the final frame.
"A year ago today I thought we had a good three point shooting team, and I built my team around the three point shot," said Taylor. "It just wasn't there all year long. I am stubborn and I probably went with it longer than I should have. We've been built around the three point shot for years and this team has been a good three point shooting team earlier in their careers, but the shots just didn't go this year and that let us down. But we finished 20-16 against a tough schedule, which I thought had us prepared for this. We just didn't get it done today, but I am proud of my kids for fighting."
The Mustangs shot 45 percent from the field, including 29 percent from the three point line, going 5-17 from beyond the arc. BIC finished 12-13 from the free throw line for 92 percent while battling the Rams even on the boards, 22-22.
Three other Mustangs joined Phillips in double figures, as Qualls scored 13, Roach netted 11 and Davis added 10. Griggs finished with three points.
The Rams shot 50 percent from the field while hitting 4-11 from beyond the three point line. Dermott finished 16-22 from the foul line. The Rams placed three players in double figures, led by Rush who scored 18 while Datson and Terrance Johnson added 13 points apiece.
"I am proud of my seniors, and I feel like they deserve more than they got this year, but they were a part of two straight state championship teams," stated Taylor. "They are a great bunch of hard working kids, good people. I am just sorry it had to end like this for them. But when they have time to reflect on their careers, they will see a lot of great things happened for them in basketball."