Miller’s Chance Sheffey appeared to hit a game winning 3-pointer at the buzzer Wednesday night. Until it wasn’t.
STAB’s Javin DeLaurier’s heart hit the floor. Until it didn’t.
“He hit that shot and my heart sank a little bit I’m going to be honest,” DeLaurier said. “But then I looked up at the scoreboard.”
Sheffey buried a game-tying bucket at the end of regulation that was ruled a two, cutting short a wild Miller celebration and taking the VISAA Division II quarterfinal to overtime. That’s where No. 3-seeded STAB collected itself and pulled away 72-69 to win a thriller with the Mavericks and secure the first spot in the state final four during this year’s senior class’ time on the varsity.
“We’ve never been there before, at least in my time here,” DeLaurier said. “So it’s on to the next one.”
To get there, they had to survive Sheffey’s incredible shot that came off an inbounds pass with just 4.3 seconds left on the clock and 11th-seeded Miller down 60-58.
“It was a great shot by Sheffey,” said STAB coach Brian Kent. “We wanted to double him and it looked like a Grayson Allen (Duke’s sophomore guard) going through the middle type shot against UVa.”
In fact, it was a nearly impossible shot that tied the game at 60-60. Considering that Sheffey pulled it off even though most everyone in the gym knew he’d take it was particularly impressive. The Mavericks lost both Tyler Creammer and Ron Alston earlier in the fourth quarter to the tandem fouling out. With Miller playing just five or six players much of the season, that left little-used reserves Josh Leak and Luca Delgado to enter the lineup. So Sheffey scored eight points in the fourth to help keep Miller in it, including the impossible, off balance bucket at the buzzer.
“We’re not deep, so once we got into foul trouble we really had to scrap and we’re still there,” said Miller coach Danny Manuel. “Then we make the shot that I feel like won the game, I felt like Jim Valvano running out there and then they’re saying it’s a two. I was like ‘what’s a two?’.”
STAB survived in large part because Jalen Harrison shook off his own early foul trouble and put together a nearly flawless second half, attacking the basket relentlessly.
“He was just a man,” Kent said. “These kids, that’s just how they’re playing right now. They did it in the Prep League tournament, they know this is one-and-done.”
Harrison scored 14 second half points and had another bucket in overtime to finish with 18 for the game. For good measure he pulled down eight rebounds and had a monster steal with just under a minute to play. He then raced to the other end and connected for a key bucket that put the Saints up 59-58, putting the pressure on Miller to work from behind.
“He’s one of our leaders emotionally, a great athlete and he brings a lot to our team,” DeLaurier said. “He had to sit early with foul trouble and we missed him.”
DeLaurier finished with 21 points, five rebounds, four blocks and three steals. His 5-for-6 performance at the free throw line was a big part of the Saints’ strong 20-for-28 outing at the charity stripe, a nearly 13 percent uptick for a team that normally shoots about 58 percent at the line.
Kareem Johnson also played a monster game, scoring 15 points including seven crucial ones in the second quarter. He also had seven boards and three steals in the all-around standout performance.
Miller actually built an eight-point lead midway through the fourth quarter on the strength of a Mateo Sanchez 3-pointer as well as a three from Alston and a Jaylin Reed two and one. But the foul trouble and a STAB squad that also refused to go away left the Mavericks hanging around, scrapping for every point or rebound or loose ball.
“I’m kind of at a loss for words,” Manuel said. “There were a lot of games we went in to undermanned. They grew so much over the course of the year. They’ve come so far, it hurts to lose that way.”
Sheffey finished with 22 points including a 8-for-12 night at the free throw line. Alston scored 16 points. Sanchez had 11 and Jaylin Reed finished with nine points.
The win pushes the Saints into the state semifinals where they’ll face Virginia Episcopal and McDonald’s All-American Sacha Killeya-Jones at Virginia State Friday at 5:15 p.m.