Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Benne
As the game clock began to click off the final minute of regulation, Fairview's Ryan Williams drove the lane. The senior guard hit the contested layup, bringing his Warriors back to even, 51-51, against once-beaten Lutheran West.
But after a pair of Longhorn timeouts with 4.8 seconds left, Clay Carper rolled off a double screen near midcourt. Nick Knudsen's inbounds pass met Carper near the right elbow.
Carper pulled up and let fly a jumper that hit nothing but net. Fairview's long desperation shot missed its mark, and Lutheran West escaped with a 53-51 win in a Patriot Athletic Conference thriller Tuesday night.
The win kept the Longhorns in the thick of the PAC Stripes Division race at 5-1, one game behind Columbia. Lutheran West, 7-1 overall, will host the Raiders this Friday night.
"I'm proud of our guys and their poise and composure," said Lutheran West head coach Alan Januzzi. "Those were two words we put on the board before the game.
"We knew it was going to be a tight one. We wanted our guys to keep focused," Januzzi said. "Our kids that were leaders out there stepped up, and I told them I was proud of them. Instead of getting down and feeling sorry for themselves, they just kept figuring out ways to win the game.
"I think that's the sign of a good team," he added.
Lutheran West had broken open a tight game with a 12-5 run in the third quarter to make it 40-30. But the Warriors closed out the quarter with a 9-3 run of their own to make it 43-39, Longhorns, heading into the final quarter.
In the fourth, the game was tied at 43, 45 and 47. Fairview actually took the lead, 49-47, on a Jared Butler drive for two with 3:27 remaining. That's when Carper stepped up his game.
The 6-2 senior tied the score with a bucket inside, then converted an offensive rebound with 1:19 remaining to give Lutheran West a short-lived 51-49 lead. Williams knotted the score on his drive, and the Longhorns went into a clock-eating stall before setting up what proved to be the game-winning play.
Januzzi used a pair of timeouts before Knudsen took the ball out of bounds.
"They had been in a 2-3 zone, so we had designed a play to screen the zone," Januzzi explained. "When we came out, they were in man. We had timeouts left, so we called another one to set a play for man.
"We wanted to isolate Andrew O'Hara in the post, put the other guys in a stack and put Clay in front," Januzzi continued. "We got him to run outside of the stack over top of it, so those guys could screen and we could throw the ball over the top. If he was wide open, then we'd have a two-on-one situation with Clay and Andrew.
"The defender got there, but his momentum took him to the sidelines. Clay was able to get open for a little 15-foot jump shot, and to his credit, he knocked it down," he said.
Fairview head coach Pete Maienknecht used a pair of timeouts with :00.1 left on the clock. But a half court shot fell short for another last-second defeat. The Warriors recently lost at Oberlin on a buzzer beater, and their losing streak hit nine with Tuesday night's gut-buster.
"We did everything we needed to do to win that game," said Maienknecht, whose team fell to 1-10 overall.
"I'm extremely, extremely proud of our efforts tonight. And it's not just the effort and the intensity, but seeing the look in my kids' eyes. They weren't going to back down. They were going to scrap and claw.
"And it was the execution. We only had six turnovers against a team that really pressures you," he said.
Fairview consistently broke the Longhorns' press throughout the game and converted numerous press breaks for layups. Even in the half court, the home team was able to get the ball to the hoop on a regular basis.
"Those Fairview kids are playing well," admitted Januzzi, whose team moved to 7-1 overall on the season.
"You can see them progress and get better and better," Januzzi continued. "So we expected this tonight, and we prepared out kids for it. It's always tough coming to play here. I thought the Williams kid had a terrific game.
"I was very impressed with Pete's kids and their execution. When we pressured them, they broke our press for easy buckets. We were stuck playing half-court man-to-man, and we struggled a little bit.
"They hit some tough shots in the lane down the stretch," he said.
Carper led all scorers with 19 points, including three 3-pointers, while pulling down five rebounds. O'Hara, a 6-4 senior, added 13 points and five rebounds, while junior guard Sean Voiers chipped in with 10 points.
Williams led the Warriors with 17 points, while fellow senior Kevin Kerchenski added 11. Butler, a junior, added eight points, while junior Max Kolman led the team with seven rebounds.
"We had poise throughout the whole 32 minutes," Maienknecht said. "We've been playing poised basketball for 28-29 minutes, then get kind of unraveled at the end of ballgames.
"Tonight, we had composure for the full 32 minutes. We battled back and gave ourselves an opportunity. Defensively, on the last possession, I thought we did a nice job. Carper has to hit an 18-foot contested jump shot. He knocks it down, so give him a lot of credit.
"He's a good shooter. He stepped up in a pressure situation and knocked it down," he said.
Despite the loss, Maienknecht felt his team was ready for to turn around its season.
"This was huge for us tonight,"Maienknecht explained. "I think that tonight is potentially a legitimate turning point for our season.
"We've been right in these past few games. We lost on a buzzer beater at Oberlin, we've been right there. I think everyone in that locker room believes this was a turning point.
"I think, potentially, we're ready to take off now," he added.
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Click on the cameras below to view Larry's photos and video highlights of this game: