With his team up two points with 11 seconds remaining Saturday night at St. Elmo, Brownstown forward Jared Winters was overcome by a foreboding sense of deja vu.
But to the Bomber sophomore’s credit, he tried to go the diplomatic route in an attempt to stave it off.
‘Winters came up to me and said, ‘Do us a favor and try not to hit a last-second shot,” said St. Elmo senior Colton Booher.
Unfortunately for the Bombers, Booher was not about to oblige in the final home game of his career.
Just as he did two months earlier against Brownstown in the semifinals of the St. Elmo Holiday Tournament, Booher sent the game into overtime, doing so this time with a pull-up jumper with four seconds remaining that left Winters and the Bombers in stunned disbelief.
‘He (Winters) just turned around and shook his head,’ said Booher with a laugh.
The Eagles would go on to stave off Brownstown’s attempt to ruin their Senior Night with a 69-66 double-overtime victory thanks in large part to the efforts of another fourth-year player.
David Cameron sent the game into a second O.T. with a stickback before starting the final extra session with a jumper that put St. Elmo up for good.
‘That was one of the biggest shots we had,’ said St. Elmo coach Greg Feezel of Cameron’s latter basket. ‘It relaxed us a little bit, and we closed out the game with a lot of confidence.’
The marathon thriller was the latest in a long line of classics between the Fayette County rivals, many of which Feezel has participated in either as a player or a coach.
‘I’ve been through so many of these games,’ said a visibly exhausted Feezel. ‘That’s why I’ll be glad when we consolidate, so I don’t have to do this anymore.’
First-year Brownstown coach Adam Bussard has been through just two of them, but he already knows what the rivalry is all about.
‘It’s everything I was told it would be,’ said Bussard. ‘But I just want to win one of these things.’
Bussard’s second foray into the Brownstown/St. Elmo rivalry was achingly similar to his first _- Booher hit a last-second 3-pointer for force O.T. the first time around before leading the Eagles to victory.
Saturday’s encore surpassed its predecessor on many fronts, however.
Booher was even more dynamic, pumping in a game-high 32 points, including seven points after regulation.
‘He’s a big-time player,’ Bussard said. ‘You just have to tip your cap. He had a big game in his final home game, and I wouldn’t expect anything else.’
The Bombers’ heartbreak was greater as well, as they saw a five-point overtime lead slip away in the final 50 seconds thanks to the heroics of Booher and Cameron.
Brownstown started the first overtime by making 7 of 8 free throws, giving them a 60-55 lead.
The Bombers would maintain that five-point well into the final minute, but a Booher drive to the basket kick-started a game-saving 7-2 run for the Eagles in the final 40 seconds.
After Brownstown hit 1 of 2 free throws, Booher drew St. Elmo to within one point of the Bombers, 63-62, with a 3-pointer with 19 seconds remaining.
The Bombers hit just 1 of 2 from the line again on their next possession, and it came back to bite them, as Cameron’s acrobatic rebound and putback of a errant Zeke Asher 3-pointer tied the game at 64 with four seconds to go.
The Bombers’ Michael Kramer got a decent look at the basket just before the buzzer, but his pull-up shot rimmed out. St. Elmo capitalized, as Cameron opened the second overtime with a jumper that permanently swung the momentum in the Eagles’ favor.
Nonetheless, Brownstown had a chance to tie the game on two occasions down the stretch.
With Brownstown trailing 68-66, Kramer forced a turnover with 35 seconds to go. But Brownstown was whistled for an offensive foul away from the ball with 23 seconds remaining, and Booher gave St. Elmo a 69-66 lead by hitting 1 of 2 free throws.
Still, Brownstown had 22 seconds to attempt to force a third O.T.
But after a time out, the Bombers failed to get a clean look from behind the arc.
First, a Winters step-back 3-pointer was well off. Goldsboro corralled the offensive rebound and found Cody Robbins, but his contested 3-point attempt wouldn’t fall, either.
Winters came up with the Bombers 46th rebound of the game, but the buzzer sounded before he could find an open shooter.
Brownstown wound up grabbing 24 more rebounds than St. Elmo, but 20 turnovers proved too costly.
‘It’s not a question of effort at all,’ Bussard said. ‘We gave all we had against our sectional’s No. 2 seed on their home floor.’
Brownstown led for a majority of regulation, enjoying its largest advantage, 35-26, with 3:36 remaining in the third quarter.
The Eagles’ sluggish play inspired a Feezel tirade moments later, and his team responded with a 12-2 run to start the fourth quarter that suddenly had them leading 47-42 with 3 1/2 minutes to go.
Absolutely nothing went right for the Bombers during the run, as they committed six turnovers – including three controversial charge calls. But the Bombers showed their resilience, going on a 7-0 run of their own to regain the lead with 1:35 to go.
‘You always hear (negative) things when you come into a new program, but these kids haven’t given up on me a single time,’ Bussard said.
Cole Rhodes capped the run with a 3-pointer before giving Brownstown a 51-49 lead with a pair of free throws with 42 seconds to go.
Booher and his eight fellow seniors weren’t going to be denied on their night, however.
‘We started off a little slow,’ Booher said. ‘We were a little cocky and thought we’d pull it out there in the end… but we didn’t think it’d be this close.’
Winters finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds for the Bombers (12-9), while Rhodes had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Goldsboro chipped in 13 points, while Kramer had 11 points and five rebounds.
Richard Waterman had 11 points and five rebounds for the Eagles (17-8).
B-town 13 14 13 13 11 2 – 66
St. Elmo 14 10 11 18 11 5 – 69
Brownstown scoring – Goldsboro 4-8 5-10 13, Kramer 2-4 6-8 12, Miller 2-9 3-4 7, Rhodes 3-7 8-11 15, Tackett 0-2 1-4 1, Winters 5-12 5-6 18, Robbins 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 16-44 28-43 66.
St. Elmo scoring – Booher 13-21 5-10 32, Cameron 3-7 1-3 8, Fritcher 2-4 0-0 4, Hill 3-6 1-2 7, Morrison 2-5 0-0 5, Nevergall 1-10 0-0 2, Waterman 5-12 1-2 11, Asher 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-66 8-17 69.
3-point goals – Brownstown 6 (Winters 3, Kramer 2, Rhodes), St. Elmo 3 (Booher, Cameron, Morrison). Rebounds – Brownstown 46 (Winters 16, Rhodes 10), St. Elmo 22 (Waterman 5). Turnovers – Brownstown 20, St. Elmo 6. Records – Brownstown is 12-9 overall, 2-7 NTC; St. Elmo is 17-8 overall, 5-0 EIC, 5-3 NTC.