Olathe South senior David Nelson hit a layup early Friday’s championship game of the Ray-Pec Sonic Shootout, but then went ice cold.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Nelson had missed all five three-point tries — until the fourth-quarter buzzer, when he buried rival Olathe East and capped a 45-43 comeback win.
“The first two games, I shot the ball outrageous,” Nelson said. “It was two of the highest-scoring games of my life, but I came out here and (Olathe East senior) Bret (Cook) shut me down. But you’ve got to have that shooter’s mentality: Keep shooting, even when you’re not on."
With 2.3 seconds remaining, Olathe East, 3-1, had taken the lead 43-42 on a free throw by sophomore guard Tez Scroggins.
Coming out of a timeout, Olathe South, 3-0, put the ball in the hands of sophomore Bruce Campbell for the inbounds pass — a lob over 6-foot-7 Hawks junior Ezra Talbert at the baseline that went an inch over Caelan Neal’s fingertips at half court, where Falcons teammate Noah Knight snatched the ball.
Knight — who finished with seven assists — turned and whipped a diagonal pass to right corner for Nelson, who wasted no time rising and firing in the game-winner.
“The play is called 100,” Nelson said. “It’s our end-of-the-game play. Before the timeout, Noah said, ‘Hit this shot’ to me and Conner (Soukup). It just happened to go to me. It rose up, let it fly and luckily it went in.”
Soukup, who made five of six threes and finished with a career-high 23 points, was the option in the opposite corner on the play, but there was no passing lane available to Knight.
And none was needed, thanks to Nelson’s heroics.
“Standing in the other corner, I was just praying it would go on and it did,” Soukup said. “After that, there was so much adrenaline that I barely knew what was going on. It’s unreal to beat a rival in a championship like that.”
Before the shot by Nelson — whose only other buzzer-beater came as a Frontier Trail freshman against Cook and California Trail on Olathe East’s home floor — Scroggins was set to be the hero.
The Hawks, who led 23-20 at halftime, bled the clock with the game tied at 42-42 before Scroggins dribbled past Nelson and charged toward the basket in the closing seconds.
It was Nelson who was whistled for a foul from behind as he tried to contest Scroggins’ shot.
Scroggins missed the first free throw, and Olathe South called a timeout, which gave Olathe East coach Jim Super a chance to chat with his young guard.
“I just told him to relax and hit it,” Super said.
The Falcons reached the Kansas Class 6A state tournament last season and hoped to make it back, but only returned four players with significant experience from that team.
Of course, beating a highly regarded Olathe East squad on the heels of nipping Lee’s Summit West in overtime in the semifinals should have Olathe South’s roster feeling great.
“It’s a tremendous shot in the arm for us, because we beat two ranked teams and two quality teams,” Falcons coach Jim Carr said. “If this doesn’t give them confidence, I don’t know what does.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.