By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (January 23, 2015) — Jonathan Normand admits he could never have drawn up the way the final seconds played out in his Stephenville team’s victory over Graham Friday night.
His Yellow Jackets used every last hundredth of a second, squeezing two possessions and three points into the final 7.48 seconds including a buzzer-beating put back by Darian Brown to win 57-55 in a District 6-4A nail biter at Gandy Gym.
Graham grabbed a 55-54 lead on a free throw with 7.48 seconds on the clock, but sophomore point guard Kaegun Williams sprinted the other way for Stephenville, drawing contact and a foul in the front court. Williams, who led all scorers with 20, missed the first free throw but hit nothing but net on the second following Graham’s final timeout.
There were 2.63 seconds remaining with Graham inbounding the ball in the tie game, and the Steers looked to throw the ball the length of the floor. Except the long inbound pass missed the mark – badly – and was not even touched before going out of bounds 94 feet away on Stephenville’s baseline.
The Jackets took over under Graham’s basket, and after Tyler Griffin couldn’t get a 3-pointer to go down, Brown collected the biggest rebound of his Yellow Jacket career.
Then he hit his biggest shot. The shot that determined the game.
Brown floated one from 10 feet away, releasing the ball just in the nick of time according to game officials, and an instant of silence was followed by a roar from the Jackets and their fans as the shot fell through.
Graham coaches and fans questioned if Brown released the put back in time, and officials met for mere seconds before agreeing the basket counted and the game was over.
Brown’s teammates were already mobbing him in a brief celebration by the time the shot was determined to be good. The junior guard scored 11.
Even after Graham closed an 11-point halftime deficit to six on its opening two possessions of the third quarter, Stephenville appeared to be in control moments later. Williams drained back-to-back 3-pointers to push the lead to 38-26.
But Graham’s strongest charge of the night was yet to come.
Trailing 42-32, the Steers scored 10 straight points over the end of the third and start of the fourth, tying the game on a 3-pointer with seven minutes remaining. Graham hit two of its four 3-pointers during the run.
Griffin answered from long range for Stephenville, and a pair of Zoey Kendall free throws made it 47-42 with 6:25 left. Kendall scored 10, giving the Jackets three in double figures.
Graham answered with five straight points of its own, evening the score again from the foul stripe with 4:55 remaining.
After Kendall hit a Stephenville free throw, Graham finally got over the hump, with an 18-foot jumper for a 49-48 edge. This Steer lead would last only 20 seconds, however, as Brown canned two from the stripe to put the Jackets up one with 3:50 left.
Graham hit one of two from the line before Williams grabbed an offensive rebound and scored the put back for a 52-50 lead. Graham tied it again with two free throws at the 2:41 mark.
Turnovers were traded back and forth with no scoring over most of two minutes, then Evan Moody went to work inside and drew a foul with 1:22 to go. He hit both free throws, and Stephenville led 54-52.
Another Stephenville turnover – the Jackets had to overcome 22 of them – gave the Steers the ball with just under a minute left, and an offensive rebound rebound led to yet another tie with 44 seconds left.
Graham got a big defensive stop and returned to the foul line with 7.48 seconds on the clock, hitting one of two free throws before the late heroics by Williams and Brown.
Stephenville led 32-21 at intermission, thanks to a 20-point second quarter. Williams and Moody each scored six in the second, and Fambro scored all of his five. Moody finished with eight.
Brown scored five points in the first as the Jackets jumped out to a 12-7 lead.
Stephenville entertains Brownwood at (approximately) 8 p.m. Tuesday following a 6:30 women’s game, both at Gandy Gym.