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Rogers guard Branden Austin played nearly the entire 32 minutes of Tuesday night’s City League boys basketball semifinal against Scott without sinking a basket.
He finally nailed a high-arcing 3-pointer from the baseline with 1.8 seconds remaining, and it proved to be the biggest shot of the contest.
It put Rogers ahead for the first time in the game and led to the Rams pulling out a 50-47 victory over the Bulldogs.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos of the game.
“I had faith in my shot,” said Austin, who finished with five points. “I wanted the ball. I told coach I wanted the ball. I got it and did it.”
It was the second time in less than a week the two City League rivals squared off. It was also the second time the Rams (11-8) disposed of the Bulldogs (13-6).
Alejandro Williams scored a team-best 15 points for Rogers while frontcourt mate Fadil Robinson also played big near the basket, scoring 12 points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds, including seven offensive.
Robinson, a 6-foot-9 post, also blocked four shots in perhaps his best performance of the season to help Rogers climb back from a deficit of 13 points early in the fourth quarter.
Rogers will face Bowsher (19-2) in the City League championship on Thursday night at Waite.
“I turned beast-mode, and I know I had to get a win for my team to get to the championship,” Robinson said.
“I did what I had to do in the fourth quarter.”
The Bulldogs led the entire game and were up by as many as 13 points early in the fourth quarter against the Rams.
However, Rogers tightened up its defense during the final eight minutes and outscored Scott 24-12 during the period.
Trailing by two points with less than 10 seconds remaining, the Rams decided during a timeout before Austin’s long-range bomb that they wouldn’t settle for a game-tying two-point shot.
Austin, who sank five 3-pointers and scored 28 points against Scott in the previous meeting, was the No. 1 option coming out of the huddle. The 6-foot junior was not expected to take a shot inside the 3-point arc.
“We were going for the win,” Rogers coach Earl Morris said. “If we didn’t make it, the kids had a good year and we would get ready for the [state] tournament.
“But he [Austin] made the only shot he made all night, which was a good time to make it.”
Scott’s Chris Darrington led all scorers with 22 points and pulled down seven rebounds.
Chris Harris finished with 15 points, but the City League’s leading scorer failed to score a point in the final quarter. Percy Bogan grabbed a team-best nine rebounds and scored four points.
Rogers’ full-court pressure down the stretch rattled Scott’s ballhandlers. The Bulldogs had trouble inbounding the ball and turned it over four times during the final quarter.
Instead of putting the game away at the foul line after being in the bonus with more than five minutes to play, they allowed the Rams to get back into the contest.
“It was a mental meltdown,” Darrington said. “We shouldn’t have been turning the ball over at the rate that we were. We were just throwing it away. We didn’t make the right plays when we needed to and it cost us.
“We missed a lot of layups and we lost the game.”
Morris said executing their defensive pressure down the stretch went according to the game plan.
“We turned up the heat,” Morris said, of their full-court pressure. “I didn't really want to turn it up that early in the first half because I had to see the way the game was being called.
“We didn’t have nothing to lose, so when we got down by 12 points we turned it up and I figured the pressure was on them because no one expected us to be here.”
The Rams are alive and set to meet the Rebels for the City League title.