Hardy's 3 at the buzzer wins it for St. Charles East
Copying a phrase from the immortal Yogi Berra, it was déjà-vu all over again at St. Charles East Friday night.
For the third consecutive year, St. Charles East's boys basketball team earned a homecourt, buzzer-beating win over cross-town rival St. Charles North - this time by a score of 53-50 on Justin Hardy's improbable 3-pointer at the horn.
Hardy, who finished with a team-leading 19 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists, found himself in the right place at the right time on the game-winner.
With 3.3 seconds remaining and the game tied at 50-50, the North Stars (10-7, 3-2) had possession of the ball under their own basket.
Junior Cody Mitchell (8 points) deflected the North Stars' long inbounds pass near midcourt and the ball squirted back to Hardy, who turned to his right and swished a 30-foot fadeaway jumper, setting off a wild celebratory scene that spilled into the auxiliary gym.
"The last thing coach (Patrick Woods) said out of the huddle was, 'we steal and shoot it if it's loose,' " said Hardy, who was guarding the inbounds pass. "I told myself before the play that as soon as it gets inbounded, I'm turning around and sprinting to half-court.
"It ended up loose by the volleyball line. I thought I had time - thankfully I did - and I put it up."
The shot brought back memories of Hardy's catch-and-shoot 3-pointer just inside half-court during the Saints' 59-58 victory over the North Stars in the title game of East's 2016 Thanksgiving tournament.
The previous season, East edged North 46-45 on J.T. Ford's buzzer beater.
"The last time it happened, I thought the shot was on line," recalled Hardy. "This one, I was fading so far to the left that I thought I kind of pushed it right and then I had that déjà-vu feeling."
"Big-time players make big-time plays when big plays are needed," Woods said of Hardy. "I couldn't be happier for Justin. To me, he kind of willed us to that win tonight."
It was a big win for the Saints (10-6, 3-3), especially after last week's 56-53 loss to Batavia on Jayden Johnson's 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"I was on the other end last week," said Woods. "That was a heck of a game and tonight it was a heck of a game."
The Saints came out smoking, hitting 10 of their 16 first-half 3-point attempts while building a 36-24 halftime advantage.
However, the North Stars' defense stiffened and the Saints went the next 12-plus minutes without making a basket.
St. Charles North led 39-38 after 3 quarters.
"I thought we played 16 minutes the way we trained to play," said North Stars coach Tom Poulin. "We deserved to learn a lesson like that.
"I'm proud of the fight we had. In the second half, we weren't allowed to get anywhere near their players and they were pretty physical with some of ours."
Kyle King and Zach Ludwig scored 19 and 14 points, respectively, for the North Stars.
"I don't have a real good feeling after this one," said Poulin.
Zach Robinson added 10 points for the Saints, who also received a pair of clutch free throws from senior guard Zach Matheny to tie the game at 50-50 with 3.3 seconds left.