By Matt Nestor
The Boylan Titans fought, scratched and clawed their way back into the sectional final matchup with Bartlett.
Much unlike the semifnal matchup, a 54-52 win against Barrington where Boylan led throughout and had to hold off a late charge, it was the Titans who found themselves behind and making the late charge.
Boylan was able to push the game to overtime, and even take a late lead in the extra period. But missed free throws from the Titans, combined with a timely bucket and free throws by Bartlett, allowed the Hawks to take home their first sectional title with a 57-55 overtime win.
“Coming here into this house, against this storied program, that great head coach and his great team and to get that win,” Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith said. “It was a great game, and this is a great feeling.”
It was an action-packed game that capped off an action-packed sectional.
The first game of the sectional saw the Titans top the Broncos at the last second. Point guard Chris Miller came off a screen and found Armani Flannigan for a basket with 5 seconds left that proved to be the game-winner.
“It was a designed play for me to come off a pick-and-roll and either shoot the ball or find my teammates, and I found a teammate open,” Miller said.
The following night saw another back-and-forth affair that had the Jefferson J-Hawks take a late lead over Bartlett. And Jefferson looked poised to tie the game late when a travel was called.
The Hawks nailed two free throws to ice a 58-54 win in a game in which Bartlett struggled from the field and the line, but hung on to win.
“We had some atoning to do for our shooting performance (against Jefferson),” Wolfsmith said.
After two tight games, there seemed to be no way to top the action from the semifinal round. But both teams had other things in mind.
The Titans got off to a strong start and took an early first-quarter lead against Bartlett. The Hawks were able to take an 18-16 lead at the end of the quarter, and extended the lead to 23-18 in the second.
Boylan followed that up with a 10-0 run to take a 5-point lead. But Bartlett followed that with a 7-0 run of their own.
“It’s just a matter of split seconds, milliseconds, that can change this game,” Boylan coach Steve Goers said. “It was a tough game. Credit to Bartlett for coming in here against this hostile crowd, which we had, and they kept their composure.”
After Boylan tied it at 30 right before the half, Bartlett threw the ball in to senior Luke Labedzki, who hit a 3-point heave from half court for 3 of his 16 first-half points. He finished with 20 in the game.
“Every shot is big in retrospect,” Wolfsmith said. “Every free throw is huge. Every missed free throw is huge. But you don’t count on that kind of shot, so you take it when you get it.”
The Hawks continued to build their lead through the third quarter, and early in the fourth, appeared ready to put the game away. Then, Miller, who scored 8 points in the fourth and 20 in all, took the game over late and brought the Titans back.
With the game tied and less than a minute left, Bartlett was looking to hold the ball for one shot. After a Bartlett timeout with 13 seconds left, the Hawks threw the ball away and gave the ball to Boylan for a chance to win.
That gave Miller a chance for more heroics. After a similar play to the game-winner against Barrington, Miller went up high and took the last shot.
“That kid is the one that worried me coming in,” Wolfsmith said of Miller taking the last shot. “I’m never nervous. My mind is always thinking about what is the next thing to do. It’s a chess match. It’s speed chess. So you can’t be thinking about the plays that happened, but more about what is going to happen.”
The shot wedged itself in the rim, leading to a jump ball and Boylan’s possession. The Titans, however, turned the ball over as well, and the game went to overtime.
The Titans led briefly in the overtime, but Bartlett knocked down five free throws in the overtime. Miller did get one last look at a contested runner at the buzzer, but after the shot missed, the Hawks found themselves moving on, and the Titans found their season over.
“We almost got the job done, but close doesn’t count in this game,” Goers said. “It’s been a great run. I’m proud of them. Won the conference, won the regional and got to a sectional final. It hurts like heck now, but looking back, it was a good run.”
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From the March 17-23, 2010 issue