By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
With a state championship on the line, Coach Darren Taylor and Greenwood weren’t about to let Oran play keep-away.
Locked in a 50-all tie with two minutes remaining, Taylor called a timeout after instructing his players to foul in order to stop the clock.
The message in the huddle was simple: get the ball back.
“We’ve been trapping and running our trapping defense quite a bit lately,” Taylor said. “(Oran) has such good ball-handlers, all five of them can handle it, so I felt like we had to keep putting pressure on them. I thought (Oran) was going to hold for the last shot when there were two minutes left.”
Greenwood did just that – get the ball back – and set up a key 3-pointer from sophomore Grant Harper that would propel the Blue Jays to the top of Class 2.
For the first time since 1942, Greenwood is state champion in boys’ basketball.
The Blue Jays overcame missed free throws and a wild finish to defeat Oran, 55-54, in the Class 2 Show-Me Showdown championship game Saturday afternoon at JQH Arena.
Sophomore Aminu Mohammed led all players with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Mohammed, who transferred to Greenwood last summer, was happy to deliver a state championship to the Blue Jays’ long-time coach.
“(Coach Taylor’s) been coaching Greenwood for years and for this to happen this year, it’s a great moment for him and the team,” Mohammed said. “I’m happy.”
Greenwood twice missed the front end of one-and-ones in the final 10 seconds.
The second miss came with less than three seconds remaining. Oran missed a desperation heave from half-court as time expired.
“I always say you have to do three things to win at basketball: play defense, rebound and make free throws,” Taylor said. “If you do those three things well, you’re usually going to play pretty well. We gave up too many offensive rebounds, a testament to Oran. We also forced more turnovers in the second half, which helped us out.”
Harper’s 3-pointer put Greenwood ahead 53-50 with 1:14 remaining.
Later, Tommy Pinegar made two free throws to give Greenwood a 55-52 lead with 33 seconds left.
An Oran putback cut Greenwood’s lead to 55-54 with 11 seconds left.
After Greenwood missed the front of a one-and-one, Oran grabbed the rebound and started down court, only to have Mohammed come from behind and poke the ball away to force a turnover with less than three seconds remaining.
The Blue Jays would miss another one-and-one, but time ran out for Oran.
Greenwood overcame a 29-23 halftime deficit.
“I told (our players) at halftime, ‘We’re not playing the way Greenwood can play. I think you can be better than them if you come out and play with a little more energy,” Taylor said.
Pinegar ignited Greenwood’s second-half rally with an onslaught of deep 3-pointers in the third quarter.
He hit a trio of NBA-range treys that brought Greenwood within 43-41 entering the fourth quarter.
“That was a big spot in the game,” Mohammed said. “I told him, ‘You have to shoot the shot. You have to make the shots because they’re going to guard me. If you don’t make that shot, I won’t be (open).’ They had to pay him some respect. He stepped up real big.”
Pinegar finished with 15 point and went 4-for-7 from 3-point range.
“I wasn’t hitting in the first half, so I just had to keep my confidence going,” Pinegar said. “I had to think the next shot was going in.”
Tyson Goodale led three Oran players in double figures with 17 points. The Eagles finish 30-2 overall.
The Blue Jays held Oran’s top scorer, Jacob Shoemaker (22.9 ppg), to just 12 points on 4-for-12 shooting.
Greenwood finished as a state runner-up in 1991, 1982, 1980 and 1966.
“I’ve already told people: I wasn’t alive yet in 1942 (for Greenwood’s previous state title),” Taylor joked.
Greenwood finished 7-16 overall last season. With new additions like Mohammed and Pinegar, the Blue Jays quickly morphed into a contender in Class 2.
“It’s amazing just to look back at all the games we’ve played,” Mohammed said. “Sometimes, we struggle against an opponent we should’ve beat. But, as a new team, that’s going to happen. Those losses helped us win this game today.”
It’s a group that Taylor has enjoyed coaching.
“One thing (I like) is the way they all get along,” Taylor said. “They make it really easy to come to practice. I enjoy practicing with them. They’re all buddies.”
The Blue Jays graduate two starters in seniors John Sharp and Garrett Litherland.
They’ll return Mohammed, Harper and Pinegar.
“I know not many people are state champions” Pinegar said. “It’s a good start to my career to be known as a state champion.”
Greenwood 55, Oran 54
Greenwood 16 7 18 14 — 55
Oran 16 13 14 11 — 54
Greenwood (29-3 overall) – Aminu Mohammed 24, Tommy Pinegar 15, Grant Harper 8, John Sharp 6, Garrett Litherland 2
Oran (30-2 overall) – Tyson Goodale 17, Ty Johnson 14, Jacob Shoemaker 12, Todd Priggel 7, Langdon Scheeter 2, Cooper Priggel 2