With 6.9 seconds remaining in Thursday night’s district semifinal between rivals Marshfield and Bolivar, the Jays seemingly had all the momentum in the world.
A Brett Diehl trey followed by a pair of Shelby Dowler put backs, following a free throw by Kerrick Wright awarded after Bolivar’s Evan Roberts’ technical foul had the packed house at Marshfield firmly behind their Jays.
Tied up at 42, worst-case scenario for Marshfield is they go into overtime.
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Chance Rash had different plans.
The 6-foot-4 junior jumped a passing lane, going the length of the floor for a game-winning layup, ending Marshfield’s season and catapulting the Liberators into Saturday afternoon’s district final with a 44-42 win.
“Tonight all of our kids just kept battling and battling. We said whatever happens, happens and we’ll just keep competing really hard. When do you do that you give yourself a chance to win,” said Bolivar coach Bobby Hoegh.
For Hoegh, whose team has lost four of its nine games by six points or less, it was especially nice to see them pull through in a tight game.
“We’ve been going in circles trying to convince this group that they are really good. They have a tendency to get down on themselves. It was ironic tonight that the adversity came and we did right. As a coach you think hey, maybe they got it,” said Hoegh.
Rash, who finished with 17 points on the evening, scored eight of his team’s 14 points in the decisive fourth quarter.
“Chance is a kid that is very unassuming, yet very talented. I’m proud of him, he let them game come to him tonight. When he makes shots he typically has a big game, if he misses a few, he usually isn’t as aggressive. Sometimes he is his own worst enemy,” said Hoegh.
Also finishing with 17 for the Liberators was guard Cody Garrison. The junior southpaw scored six fourth quarter points, two of which coming on an acrobatic tip-in to help keep Bolivar within striking distance.
“Cody is the biggest key. He’s our engine and our energizer bunny. That tip he had was all effort and heart. He just wanted it,” said Hoegh.
Bolivar’s win sets up a rematch with the Hillcrest Hornets, who beat the Liberators 49-38 on December 4.
“They are really fast, they can get in the paint, they can shoot it and they can pressure you. We’re going to have to take care of the basketball. This is the opportunity we want. Hillcrest is a great team, but we’re going to come out and give it our best shot and see what happens,” said Hoegh.
Marshfield was paced by senior Kerrick Wright’s 16 points.
Marshfield 5-13-16-8 -- 42
Bolivar 6-14-10-14 -- 44
Marshfield: Lovell 2, Garrison 17, Rash 17, Roberts 8.
Bolivar: Wright 16, Summers 8, Armstrong 11, Diehl 3, Dowler 4.
Hillcrest 82, Salem 41
The Hillcrest Hornets won their ninth straight game Thursday night at Marshfield, beating Salem 82-41 to advance to the Class 4 – District 10 championship Saturday afternoon.
Many people would say what makes Hillcrest so good is their ability to lockdown defensively. Others may look to their ability to shoot the basketball extremely well, evident by their 13 made 3s in Thursday’s win.
However, the Hillcrest players may give you a different reason.
Head coach John Schaefer’s beard?!
“I wasn’t clean shaven come out of the Tournament of Champions and we beat a couple of teams and the kids said it was good luck. After that they told me not to shave, so I told them I wouldn’t shave if we kept winning,” said Schaefer.
That winning continued Thursday night. But, after jumping out to a 9-2 lead just two minutes into the first, Hillcrest relaxed a bit, allowing Salem within a 19-14 margin by the end of the quarter.
“We started well, then we got selfish with the ball and made some mistakes that we don’t usually make, kind of got sluggish. I subbed all five, which I don’t typically do, said a few words and they picked it up,” said Schaefer.
Hillcrest outscored Salem 49-20 over the second and third quarters, allowing fans in Marshfield to witness a turbo clock for the rest of the game.
In the early going it was Hillcrest’s full-court pressure defense that got them going offensively. Senior guard Austin Petry hit a trey and had a pair of breakaway steals that he finished for layups to set the tone early.
“Austin Petry made some nice plays for us early, big steals and big layups and got us that lead. Then after that everyone filled in and started playing good basket,” said Schaefer.
Petry would finish with a team-high 15 points, leading four Hornets in double figures.
However, moving forward Saturday and beyond will be all about the beard.
“They get a kick out of it, while all I get is itchy and people making fun of me. But, I won’t mind looking like someone from Duck Dynasty if we make it to the Final Four,” said Schaefer.
Saturday’s championship will tip off at approximately 1:30 p.m. following the Class 4 – District 10 girl’s championship between Marshfield and Bolivar.
Salem 15-11-9-6 -- 41
Hillcrest 19-22-27-14 -- 82
Salem: Artz 3, Z. Elliot 4, Floyd 9, Whitaker 7, C. Elliot 14, Pogue 3.
Hillcrest: Liming 3, Rush 1, J. Johnson 12, Mcintosh 5, Hardy 5, Whitaker 12, Troy 3, B. Petry 9, A. Petry 15, Pryor 11, D. Johnson 6.