St. John's Jay Springs takes the game-winning shot over St. Francis' Storm Stanley. The Titans ensured they will be no worse than the No. 2 seed in the City playoffs.
In the closing seconds of a dramatic overtime finish for City League rivals St. John's Jesuit and St. Francis de Sales Friday night, two highly unlikely shots proved to be the difference.
The one that Titans senior guard Jay Springs made while hanging in the air, twisting and double-pumping while squeezing it through a block attempt by 6-foot-11 St. Francis center Storm Stanley, basically defied physics as it rolled in with 3.4 seconds remaining.
And the one that Stanley got off from 12 feet along the left baseline - after having to go three-quarters of the court in 2.5 seconds - seemed equally improbable, and ultimately was, as it missed the mark and allowed St. John's to survive for a 60-58 basketball victory at Savage Arena.
"We've been in a lot of these situations, and I think our competitive schedule prepares us for these kinds of things in a game like this," Titans coach Ed Heintschel said. "I think [Springs] had a feeling that he had the lane and he did, and he made a great finish. I don't know where he came up with that one, but he's probably got a 40-inch vertical jump so he's very creative."
It was that close, and it was that tough to take for coach Nick Lowe and his Knights (10-6, 5-4 CL) who are fighting for a league playoff berth, and slipped into fifth place with the defeat.
"My head's going a million miles an hour right now," Lowe said. "It's so emotional. I just feel for my kids. St. John's played hard and we played hard. It's unfortunate that someone's got to lose, but I couldn't be more proud of my guys.
"We've just got to keep pounding. There's still a lot of season to play. Hopefully we can get one of these close ones in the tournament."
Springs topped the first-place Titans (14-2, 9-0) with 19 points, Cheatham Norrils had 14, and Marc Loving and T.J. Gillespie added 10 and nine, respectively, as St. John's clinched no worse than the No. 2 seed for the playoffs.
"I had to focus and make a shot and it felt good," Springs said of his game-winner. "I didn't worry about the blocked shot.
"I knew they were going to be really hyped, so we had to play hard. It was a good game. It was real dramatic and it was a good environment to play in."
The loss spoiled a terrific effort from Stanley, who poured in 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Kent Goldsmith added 16 points and Ben Syroka seven for the Knights, who must now beat Libbey Tuesday to stay alive for a berth.
Early on, it was all St. John's, as the Titans closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run to take a 17-7 advantage. Still down 24-13 late in the second quarter, St. Francis gained some momentum going to the break when Goldsmith scored from the lane and Stanley converted a three-point play to get the Knights within 24-18 at halftime.
"I thought we had an opportunity [to pull away] when we got ahead," Heintschel said, "and then we missed a lot of free throws and they got their 3-point shooters involved, and that was really huge.
"We were going to concede some stuff to Stanley. He got quite a few more than I'd like, but we didn't want to give them perimeter shots. When the [St. Francis] 3's got into the game, we struggled."
St. John's stretched its lead back to 10 points (31-21) on a 3-pointer from Gillespie 2:30 into the third quarter, but that's when the Knights made their move.
Stanley's put-back bucket capped a 17-6 Knights surge for a 38-37 edge with 10 seconds left in the third before Loving hit a 3-pointer seven seconds later to send the Titans to the fourth quarter ahead 40-38.
St. Francis gained its last lead in regulation at 49-48 on Goldsmith's 3-pointer with 5:05 left, and Stanley's four-footer with 1:10 left forced overtime with the teams tied at 54.
Stanley's put-back bucket with 51 seconds left tied things at 58, and St. John's set up Springs' game-winning shot after calling a timeout with 19.9 seconds left in the extra period.
Lowe said he opted not to foul after that timeout. Despite the Titans' woeful 12-for-27 effort at the foul line, he preferred to rely on his team's defense.
St. John's was 20-of-42 from the field, including 8-of-15 from 3-point range, and was outrebounded 35-24 by the Knights.
St. Francis was 20-of-45 from the field, including 5-of-14 on 3-pointers, and was 13-of-21 at the line.