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Waite s Robert Jackson (23) celebrates his game-winning basket with teammates Hakeem Muhammad, left, and Khari Riley.
Khari Riley, right, who led Waite with 22 points and 10 rebounds, battles for a loose ball with Whitmer s Antwan Willis. The Indians (13-4, 8-3 City League) earned the right to face St. John s in the CL playoffs while the Panthers (14-4, 8-3) will match up with Libbey.
The Waite Indians had worked too hard and come too far to be denied.
Still, they almost were last night before pulling out a dramatic 52-51 City League boys basketball victory at Whitmer.
Robert Jackson who might have gone down as the goat after missing two free throws with 10.9 seconds left and the score tied at 50 instead became the hero for Waite when he converted an inside basket on a feed from Hakeem Muhammad with 1.2 seconds remaining.
The win clinched a spot for Waite in Tuesday s CL playoffs at Savage Hall, the Indians first berth since 2001 when they lost 48-47 to Scott on a last-second shot in the City title game.
Third-seeded Waite (13-4, 8-3 CL) will face No. 2 seed St. John s Jesuit (13-5, 10-1) in the 8:30 p.m. semifinal Tuesday. Top-seeded Libbey (16-2, 10-1), the defending champion, will face Whitmer (14-4, 8-3) in the 6:30 semifinal.
Jackson s winning bucket became possible when Whitmer s Antwan Willis missed the second of two free throws with 10.9 to go. Khari Riley, who topped Waite with 22 points and 10 rebounds, rebounded the Willis miss and got the ball to Muhammad.
That was kind of heartbreaking, Jackson said of his missed free throws. There was some adversity and we played over it. We ve been in this situation so many times, so we just stuck it out.
It felt so good [on winning basket]. I was so amazed. I saw Hakeem drive and pump fake, and he kicked it to me. I laid it up and the game turned around.
Riley was the difference late for Waite, getting nine points and six boards in the final quarter.
We were hungry for it, Riley said. We wanted it. Coach told us to keep our composure, keep our cool and just execute, so we did. Robert executed the layup and we got the win. I feel great for him.
The Indians nearly squandered a seven-point lead in the final 29.9 seconds after Muhammad s two free throws made it 49-42.
But Whitmer which has won four games this season with last-second baskets made a bid for a fifth fantastic finish.
It was a game I was just proud to be a part of, Whitmer coach Bruce Smith said. Their athleticism in their presses and traps hurt us, obviously. But I m so proud of our team being down seven with under a minute to go and coming back.
We could have easily cashed it in, but we made some plays and we got the lead. Give Jackson credit, he made a heck of a shot to win the game.
Ryne Smith, who led the Panthers with 22 points, made a pair at the line with 26.4 seconds left. After Jackson (15 points) hit one of two at the stripe with 26.0 to go, Jeremy Jones hit a long 3-pointer to cut it to 50-47 with 17.3 seconds left.
Waite then turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds play, and the home portion of the crowd went berserk when Smith leaned in between two defenders and netted a basket while being fouled just inside the 3-point line.
Smith, who now has 1,010 points in his career, knotted things with the subsequent free throw with 12.0 seconds left.
I was like 'Oh no, here we go, Waite coach Dave Pitsenbarger said. I ve followed
Whitmer and I ve noticed how many close games they ve won."
"We were a little nervous. But the kids kept their composure, checked out and got rebounds, and they did everything we asked them to do.
At halftime we said that we had put too much time into this to let it get away from us.
Waite started the game by missing 15 of its first 17 shots, but eventually settled in behind its pressure defense and cut an early eight-point deficit to 22-19 by halftime.
The Indians were within 33-32 on Jackson s 3-pointer with three seconds left in the third quarter, and took the lead 39-37 on Riley s three-point play with 5:39 remaining.
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