Class 3A Pontiac Regional
One has to feel for Deshaun Edmond. The Rich East junior was left all alone, standing slightly behind a line and having to stare down a basket with no time on the clock and his team trailing by two points at the Class 3A Pontiac Sectional Wednesday night.
Edmond made the first free throw that ignited a huge roar from the Rich East faithful. He had one more toss and a make would tie the game.
But it was not meant to be as the shot bounced off the back of the rim and caromed away, igniting another roar, only this time from Kankakee’s fans as the miss gave the Kays a 72-71 victory over Southland Athletic Conference rival Rich East.
“That last free throw, I was saying to myself, miss this free throw young man, miss this free throw,” Kankakee head coach Chris Pickett said. “It’s March, and any way you can get it, you take it.”
The Kays were impressive after taking an early hit. Kankakee was able to rebound from the charges the Rockets made. From the 8-0 deficit to start the game to being able to not allow Rich East to take a lead over the final 9½ minutes of the game.
“It was a heartbreaker,” said Rich East head coach Jamaal Hodges. “I have a team full of seniors, three of them played varsity four years. I’m just trying to get them in a position to win this game. Situations like this, it’s tough.”
This was a game of runs, but it was Kankakee who had the bigger surges and the Kays were able to fend off the Rockets down the stretch.
TJ Wicks scored with 1:36 to go in the third quarter to give the Kays a 48-47 lead. It started a run of five points to close out the period, and they added two more 31 seconds into the fourth quarter to lead 52-47.
A runner from Lewis Harper brought Rich East to within one, at 54-53, with 6:24 left in the game. Vashawn Sims had a dunk after a steal that tied it for the Rockets at 57-57 with 5:07 remaining.
But Kankakee’s defense got stronger and the Rockets were missing shots, resulting in an 11-4 run that gave the Kays a 68-61 advantage. Wicks finished a nice baseline drive with a dunk for a 70-62 lead with 1:23 to go.
“A game like that tests your heart strength,” Pickett said. “We knew coming in, they’re so athletic, they’re going to make runs.”
Rich East stayed on the attack. Sims had a 3-pointer and a free throw 15 seconds apart to get the game back to one possession. Lavale Hill made a free throw for the Kays but Clifton Jimerson came away with the ball after the miss and a trading of turnovers. Jimerson made a layup and the difference was 72-70 with 26 seconds remaining.
Kankakee turned the ball over again and Antron Washington’s 3-point attempt fell well short of the mark. Sims got the rebound for the Rockets and was fouled with 3.6 seconds left.
He missed the first toss and the Kays used a timeout to figure a way to get the board on what appeared to be an on-purpose miss situation. Sims did miss and the ball went out of bounds off the Kays with less than two seconds remaining.
The ball got inside to Edmond, who took a shot as time ran out. A foul was called on Wicks, and after a brief discussion, Edmond was sent to the line for two shots with no time on the clock.
“Mark my words, he won’t be missing another one,” Hodges said of Edmond.
Rich East grabbed the early advantage by scoring the game’s first eight points in a matter of 98 seconds.
“We knew they were going to punch and we had to have a counter,” Pickett said. “Their runs are so fast and furious.
“When I called a timeout, I think we went on a 17-2 run or something like that; we just had to settle them down.
“The gym was loud, nice crowd, the guys were a little jittery,” Pickett added. “I could see it. We settled down and we started playing our game. We noticed certain things that we could do against Rich East, so we were able to do that tonight.”
The runs was actually 20-2 as five different players scored, including three nailing 3-pointers. The Kays led 20-14 after one period. Rich East led 39-30 at the half after a 9-0 run closed out the second quarter.
“They went on that 9-0 run, at halftime we told them this is the type of team that a nine-point lead is like a two-point lead because they’re going to do some things that will let us back in the game,” Pickett said. “Once they let us back in the game, we were able to sustain our energy.”
Kankakee led 51-47 after three quarters. There were five lead changes and five ties in the game.
Corey Tharp had 23 points for Kankakee (21-6). Jacquan Binion added 16, Hill had 11 points and Wicks scored 10.
Sims led four Rockets (17-11) in double figures with 15 points. Harper threw in 14 while Jimerson and Reese each had 10 points.
Kankakee will face fifth-ranked Marian Catholic in Friday’s championship. Marian defeated Pontiac 66-40 in Tuesday’s semifinal.