Marmion's late rally tips Crystal Lake South
Two standout guards, neither of whom had hit a 3-pointer the entire game, were determined to change that in the final 24 seconds.
Marmion's Collin Wainscott did when he drained a 3-pointer from the right corner with 10.3 seconds to go in Tuesday's Class 3A Burlington Central sectional boys basketball tournament semifinal.
Then, it was Crystal Lake South's Cooper LePage's turn. LePage dribbled up the court, his team trailing by two points and tried to shake the Cadets' 6-foot-3 Jabe Haith.
Haith stuck with LePage, who let a 3 fly from a few feet beyond the key, and tipped the shot, causing it to fall short.
Marmion, which last played in a sectional in 1976, ran onto the court to celebrate. LePage, his outstanding four-year career over, sank to the floor from the spot where he took the shot.
LePage told South coach Matt LePage, his father, he wanted to go for the win on the final possession.
"I told him, 'I'm going to try to win this thing right here,'" Cooper LePage said. "If I would have went in the paint they probably would have all collapsed on me, I thought I had a better shot to end it right there.
"I was trying to do a move I've used during the season. He just played good defense on me and got a tip of it. Credit to (Haith). It hurts to end my high school career with that."
Marmion (22-11) advances to Friday's 7 p.m. championship against the winner between Boylan (22-11) and host Central (28-5), who meet in Wednesday's 7 p.m. semifinal.
The game went back and forth for four quarters. South (25-9) was down 49-43 in the fourth when AJ Demirov hit his third 3 to start a 13-0 run. The Gators were up 56-49 with 1:46 remaining and could not close the game out at the free-throw line.
Demirov missed both shots of a double bonus with 28 seconds to go and Marmion rebounded. Haith was fouled and made one free throw, then the Cadets were able to tip the rebound out when Haith missed the second shot.
Wainscott ran it down right at the out-of-bounds line and Marmion called timeout.
Wainscott kept thinking about what Cadets coach Joe Piekarz says if someone is having a subpar shooting night, to keep thinking about the next play.
Marmion inbounded to Wainscott, who passed to Evan Stumm and cut to the right corner, where he found an open spot in South's zone defense.
"Coach drew up a play for me or Jabe to shoot the ball," Wainscott said. "It came to me, I was going to shoot that ball with confidence. I wasn't playing the best today with my shooting, but no doubt in my mind it was going in."
Haith figured LePage would get the ball on the Gators' final possession.
"I knew Cooper was getting the ball. I wanted to guard him," Haith said. "I got a piece of it. I just had to play good defense. It was one-on-one at that point, just like training."
Marmion threatened to pull away late in the third and early in the fourth, but the Demirov would not allow it. He twice hit 3s when the Gators were down five, then hit his last 3 to start the 13-0 run.
Demirov, who was shooting 78% on free throws, finished with 17 points, but missed four free throws in the fourth quarter.
"I was just trying to bring those guys back into it," said Demirov, with tears in his eyes. "I would do anything to get that win. I feel bad missing those free throws at the end.
"It was intense. I'll never play with these guys again. I would do anything for these guys. We could have gotten it done if I'd hit those free throws."
Matt LePage felt for his sophomore guard, who was so integral in the Gators' comeback.
"It's unfortunate," Matt LePage said. "He feels bad. You don't want to have that happen to anybody, whether it's your kid or another kid. We weren't there unless he did that. That's him. That's how good he is.
"I wish we would have tried to find Cooper there. He had made four in a row. Our man (defense) press-breaker is him and AJ and AJ ended up with it there. I feel bad for our guys. They wanted it so bad."
Cooper LePage led South with 22 points. Haith topped Marmion with 23 and Trevon Roots scored 19.
"To be down seven with however much time to go (1:46) to not panic," Piekarz said. "We practice it a lot, we say, 'Just extend the game. Just keep extending the game.' That's exactly what they did.
"We knew (LePage) was taking that last shot. We told Jabe do not leave him. We had help ready. With his length we felt we could possibly affect his shot. He did an outstanding job defensively."