During the opening minutes Thursday in Class 5A substate play, St. James Academy looked unbeatable.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
The Thunder rolled to a 9-0 lead off the opening tip against Bishop Miege. But in the second half, the Stags turned the tables.
Miege, which had trailed by four at the break, looked indomitable as it surged to a double-digit lead with 16-0 run to start the second half.
When the Stags held on for a 49-45 victory, both teams had thrown away chances in a sloppy, frenetic and electrifying final 1 minute, 52 seconds.
“That’s how these Catholic school games go,” Miege senior Montell Cozart said. “There’s a rivalry between the schools, and it’s always a tough game.”
At the 1:52 mark, St. James senior Mark Huppe hit a pair of free throws, knotting the score at 45-45.
Senior Anthony Hooks answered with a circus shot that put Miege, 10-11, back into the lead, but the frenzy was only beginning.
Inside one minute remaining, Huppe, who led St. James with 15 points, missed a go-ahead three-pointer from the top of the key, but freshman Clay McCullough snared the offensive board and the Thunder, 13-8, called a timeout with 41.6 seconds left.
Trying to run down the clock for a final shot, Huppe turned the ball over after a sideline collision with 16.6 seconds left.
St. James had a foul to give and hacked with 13.7 seconds left, but then Cozart was whistled for a shove to gain space on the ensuing inbounds play, giving the ball back to the Thunder.
First-year St. James coach Stan Dohm called another timeout with 8.7 seconds left.
The Thunder narrowly avoided a 5-second count on the ensuing inbounds pass, which Cozart tipped into St. James’ backcourt.
Thunder senior Ben Maskus chased it down and made a mad dash toward the hoop for the game-tying bucket, but he lost his grip on the ball as he went up for the runner.
Hooks snagged the rebound, was clotheslined at half-court but made both free throws to ice the win for Miege, which plays at Emporia at 7 p.m. Saturday with a state tourney berth on the line.
“There was a lot going on, and everybody was rushing,” said Cozart, who scored 12 points with 11 rebounds and four assists. “We needed to settle down a little bit, but that’s how it is in the playoffs. Everyone is trying to get to the next game.”
Survive and advance — it’s something many of the Miege squad learned about in the football season as well.
“We’ve been up and down,” Cozart said. “We lost some games early and then won seven in a row before we started losing again. But just like football, it’s all about the playoff record and we started out 1-0 tonight.”
Sophomore Alston Jones — who connected on four first-half threes, including a 23-footer at the buzzer — finished with a game-high 16 points, including a 23-footer at the halftime buzzer.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.