With two seconds showing on the clock and the host Jaguars and Lee’s Summit West Titans battling in a 60-60 Suburban Big Six classic, Cade Berg stretched his 6-foot-6 frame for all it was worth.
West’s 6-5 Josh Butler, meanwhile, was driving the baseline for a potential game-winning layup.
Berg swatted the basketball halfway to Grain Valley and the game went into overtime, in which Berg, Devin Tomlinson and Khayden Hooks led the Jaguars to a memorable 71-68 victory.
South trailed 10-0 early in the game, yet South coach Josh Smith’s demeanor never changed.
He encouraged his players, pointed out paths that led to some success and his team did the rest as five Jaguars scored in double figures and defense ruled late in the game. Two late steals helped the Jaguars (12-10, 4-3 Big Six) get into overtime, and a Berg steal, layup and free throw helped seal the victory.
"I think it goes without saying that Lee’s Summit West was ready to play early in the game and we weren’t, and that’s on me," Smith said. "But we didn’t panic. We addressed our shortcomings and went out and showed some fight.
"They might have knocked us down early, but we got back up. And late in the game, we were able to throw some knockout punches of our own. I am so proud of this comeback and the way our guys came back. … It was a team effort."
The Jaguars didn’t score a basket until Berg hit a jump shot at 4:42 of the first quarter. Despite the slow start, the Jaguars trailed just 16-10 going into an explosive second quarter.
Playing team ball and great defense, the Jaguars inched to within 27-26 at halftime.
South led 43-39 going into the fourth quarter as two Johnny George free throws at 6:33 gave the Jaguars their first lead.
They used a 7-0 run to expand that lead to 37-31, but there was a lot of game left to be played.
"We’re a team that might get off to a slow start like tonight, and then finish strong, or get off to a good start and not have a great ending," said Tomlinson, who had two key steals in the closing minutes of regulation. "Tonight, we just kept fighting, just kept working and we got a big conference win."
A Tomlinson layup with seven seconds left in regulation gave South a 60-57 lead, but Butler hit a clutch 3-pointer to knot it at 60-all.
A South turnover gave West once last chance to win in regulation, but Berg’s defensive gem set the stage for the overtime win.
"I was afraid he might lean into me with his body," Berg said when asked about the block, "but I knew I had a clean block."
Hooks and Tomlinson opened the overtime period with baskets and West’s Luke Jordan, who scored 17 points off the bench, hit two free throws to make it 64-62.
Butler then hit a layup to tie it at 64 with 2:12 left. After an errant South shot, Berg came up with a steal, drove the court, hit a layup and was fouled. He hit the free throw to give South some breathing room.
Tomlinson then hit his second overtime basket and the host team held on for the comeback victory.
"We didn’t hit all our free throws, but we hit enough to get the win," Berg said. "This is a big win against a conference opponent. We’ll take it."
Hooks led the Jaguars with 18 points followed by Berg (13), Tomlinson (12) and George and Jacob Dulay (10 each).