Posted: Saturday, 09 March 2013 11:55PM

Eminence boys win title on clutch defensive play

The Eminence Redwings probably gave Pete McBride a few more grey hairs over the weekend.


Following a Jesse Lacey free throw, Eminence, which led Stanberry nearly wire-to-wire in Saturday’s Class 1 state championship game, had a 62-59 lead over the Bulldogs with just nine seconds remaining when one of the most questionable calls of the weekend was made.

With just over four seconds left Eminence guard Niko Danding was called for an intentional foul while fouling Stanberry’s Jacob Heddinger to prevent the Bulldog’s from making a game-tying three.

“We had a foul to give. We told the kids to let them take a couple of dribbles then go for the ball; we wanted to make them take it out again. It was a tough call, we wanted him to go for the ball, but he did grab him on the chest. So that was the call,” said McBride.

However, just like on Thursday night, the Redwings made a stand.

Heddinger would make the second of his two free throws, pulling Stanberry within two at 62-60 before getting the ball back due to the intentional foul call.

“We didn’t want to give up a layup, but we didn’t want to give up a 3 either. We weren’t going to lose the game on a shot that wasn’t contested so we weren’t going to help on any kind of penetration. We were going to stay tight and switch screens,” said McBride.

On the ensuing inbounds Redwings’ forward Cole Keeling, who struggled all weekend to find his offensive, made the biggest defensive play of his life, blocking the Bulldog’s Cole Gage during his three point attempt, preserving Eminence’s first state championship in program history with a 62-60 win Saturday night at Mizzou Arena.

“You don’t want to foul there, it was a gutsy play by him, but he made sure he got all ball. I thought he did a great job blocking that shot, it was a great play,” said McBride.

The Redwings, who never trailed after the 5:46 mark in the first quarter, withstood run after run by the Bulldogs to hold on to the state championship.

“We’ve been in these battles. Our conference was really good and our area was good.  We had a tough team in South Iron in our district. Then we had to go through Scott County and a tough Drexel team. We’ve done this so many times this year. I know they had all the momentum but I never felt like my team wasn’t going to step up and make a play because they’ve done it all year,” said McBride.

Making the biggest plays down the stretch was forward Hunter Adams. The senior scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in the decisive fourth quarter.

“It’s the best feeling ever. It’s a dream come true. I never thought I’d be the guy scoring, but I had the open lanes so I took it in,” said Adams.

The win was especially meaningful McBride, a former Eminence grad Class of 1991.
“We’ve got so many alumni here, guys that I’ve played with and coached and guys I’ve watched growing up, and it is a feeling unlike any other. A program that’s been playing basketball for 50 or 60 years and has never gotten to this point, I just can’t say what it means to me. I’ve gotten so many texts and phone calls this week from former players and it’s just unbelievable to be a part of,” said McBride.

Eminence fishes the season with a 27-5 record, including 14 straight wins to end the campaign.

Stanberry 14-11-17-18 – 60
Eminence 21-11-12-18 – 62
Stanberry: J. Heddinger 11, Osborn 14, Gage 12, Luke 7, Jensen 2, I. Heddinger 4, Hailey 10.
Eminence: Danding 6, Lacey 7, Keeling 6, Dyer 16, Adams 24, Craig 3.

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