Jesse Lacey caught the ball on the wing with his team trailing 64-62 in overtime with just seconds remaining in his high school career. With that, he let what might be the last shot in his high school career fly.
“It looked short,” said Lacey in hindsight.
The senior guard’s trey with just seconds remaining lifted the Eminence Redwings to an upset semifinal win over No. 1 Drexel, moving Eminence into Saturday’s Class 1 state championship.
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“We knew going in they were ranked No. 1 for a reason. You watch them on film and get them on the floor and you realize how good they are. But, I got some warriors on my team to and they just kept battling,” said Eminence coach Pete McBride.
Eminence had trailed 64-59 with under a minute remaining when Damon Craig grabbed an offensive rebound and buried a three to pull Eminence within two points.
The Redwings would foul on the ensuing inbounds play, but the Bobcats would miss the front end of the 1-and-1. McBride didn’t call timeout, putting the ball in the hands of his senior and letting the game play itself out.
“At the end of quarters and the end of games Jesse is the guy that’s going to have the ball in his hands to make a play for himself or make a play for someone else,” said McBride.
All the excitement of overtime came on the heels of a frantic fourth quarter finish that saw Eminence score the game’s final six points to force the extra session.
“They couldn’t put us away and it wasn’t anything they did wrong, but our kids just kept fighting and found a way to make plays and stay in the game,” said McBride.
The Redwings trailed 56-50 when Lacey, who finished with a game-high 22 points, buried a 3 while being fouled for a four point play, bringing Eminence within two.
Just minutes later, the senior guard came up with a steal and layup to tie the game and give Eminence the momentum heading into overtime.
Early in the overtime it seemed as if Drexel would run away with it after scoring the first four points on offensive rebounds.
“We’ve been rebounding well, but we couldn’t handle the Bolton kid on the glass and it almost cost us the game. To stop good offensive players sometimes you’ve got to give away something and they burned us late with that,” said McBride.
Eminence also received 19 points from sophomore Logan Dyer and 10 points from guard Niko Danding, who also locked up Drexel guard Trevor Cooley in the second half, holding him scoreless.
“Logan took his game to another level around Christmas this year. It doesn’t matter the stage or situation, it doesn’t bother him. These guys know they need to find him and he’s just a monster inside despite his size,” said McBride.
In the last week Eminence has defeated the state champs, and the state runner-ups.
“It feels pretty good. It’s like we’re in a dream right now. That ball went in and it’s like all the year’s these guys have been together and the best kid’s you’ve seen for that to happen is pretty amazing,” said McBride.
Eminence will play Stanberry Saturday at 6:50 p.m. in Mizzou Arena for the Class 1 championship.
Drexel 19-16-12-9-8 – 64
Eminence 13-20-10-13-9 – 65
Drexel: Bolton 20, Johnston 16, Stewart 13, Cooley 9, Russell 6.
Eminence: Danding 10, Lacey 22, Keeling 6, Dyer 19, Adams 5, Craig 3.
Extended Highlights: Eminence defeats Drexel