Fair Grove senior Deric Link hit the game-winning shot with 2.9 seconds remaining in Friday night’s Highway 65 showdown against Springfield Catholic. The Fightin’ Irish had their chance to win the game but junior Tyler Ast’s 3-point shot was too long.
The Eagles held on to win 59-57.
“We’ve had a lot of games like this,” said Fair Grove coach Tim Brown. “All of our losses were games like this and where we haven’t been the tougher team in the final four minutes.”
Fair Grove trailed for most of the game. They grabbed their first lead near the end of the third quarter when senior Brock Derrick hit a free throw. They held a lead going into the fourth quarter.
Link led all Eagles in scoring with 20 points. Derrick added 14 and senior Michael Thomas chipped in 11.
“It’s just toughness,” said Link. “You have to have that mental toughness to be able to grab that energy in the fourth quarter…we just got to have each other’s backs.”
With 39.9 seconds left in the game, Brown called a timeout to draw up a play. He put the ball in Link’s hands and gave him the decision to make.
“It was his decision,” said Brown. “I have the upmost faith in him, he’s a coach on the floor and most of the time, he knows what I am already thinking.”
With his back to the basket at the free throw line, Link decided to not hand the ball of to his teammate. Instead, he used a spin move to go down the lane while absorbing contact and make a tough, contested layup with only 2.9 seconds remaining.
Catholic coach Tony Armstrong called back-to-back timeouts and Brown answered with a timeout of his own before play resumed for the final ticks in the ball game.
The Fightin’ Irish were able to get the ball down the court and in the corner, but the contested shot went a little long as the buzzer sounded.
The Fightin’ Irish were led by senior Will Hennessey with 21 points, including six 3-pointers. Junior Ryan Haller added 12.
With the win, Fair Grove improves to 8-8 on the season. They are off for a week and will host Mountain Grove next Friday.
The Fightin’ Irish fall to 6-9. They play Marionville in the Spokane Tournament on Monday.