WESTVILLE, Ill. —
The prudent thing would have been to pull the basketball out, wait for an opponent to foul and run as much clock as possible in the final minute of the Illinois Class 2A Westville Sectional on Friday night.
Audie Temples was thinking dagger.
It was Temples’ four straight 3-pointers that had led the Paris boys from behind against Braidwood (Reed-Custer) for a five-point lead. So …
“I was yelling, ‘No, no, no,’” Paris coach Shawn Nugent admitted afterward.
“I knew I was going to make it,” Temples said. “I just threw it up.” And the fifth straight 3-pointer for the Tiger senior was the exclamation point on an eventual 60-55 win.
In a wacky game that almost defies description, Paris survived its 28 turnovers and the Comets’ high-pressure, run-and-jump defense to earn a Tuesday trip to Springfield for a super-sectional game. One more win until the Elite Eight, and it might be foolish to bet against the Tigers by now.
“This was how we’ve been doing it for about three weeks now,” Nugent said after the game, the Tigers’ 11th win in their last 12 outings. “They’ve all been close.”
“No one believes in us,” Temples said. “We’re playing our hearts out to prove people wrong.”
The final of an upset-filled sectional featured the Tigers, who had sidelined a formerly 23-1 Clifton Central team against a deep Reed-Custer team — 14 Comets saw action before halftime — that had upset top-10 St. Joseph-Ogden.
And for most of the game Friday, neither team played like they had in their most recent wins.
Paris led the entire first half, but missed enough layups and threw the ball away often enough in attacking the Comets’ pressure that their lead was never safe.
Even though Reed-Custer was shooting historically badly — 16 percent for the first half, 24 percent for the game, 8 for 47 from 3-point range.
“We just made some bonehead plays,” Nugent said later, “that I thought were gonna get us beat.”
Paris seemed to open some daylight midway through the second quarter with a 6-0 run for a 19-12 lead, but Reed-Custer responded to get within 23-19. Temples hit two free throws for Paris to close out the half.
In the third quarter, Paris found some holes in the Reed-Custer defense to set up center Jeffrey Martin for five layups, the last of which gave the Tigers a 35-30 lead.
But the Comets had started to find the range themselves — comparatively speaking — and got the last 10 points of the quarter, taking a 40-35 lead and seemingly the momentum as well.
“It was very intense and we were all getting down,” said Temples of that stretch of the second half, “but coach [Nugent] got our heads straight and we went out and started playing good.”
“I just looked at [the Tigers] and said, ‘We’ve been here before,’ “ Nugent added.
Five free throws helped the Tigers creep within 42-40, and the Comets were being uncharacteristically patient. But with 4:06 left, after both teams had been scoreless for more than two minutes, Temples hit his first 3-pointer — his team’s first 3-pointer, in fact — and Paris had the lead.
Temples stole the ball and hit a free throw, but Reed-Custer tied the score at 44. Then hit another 3 — and another, and another, and the back-breaker.
Reed-Custer’s crowd had been vocal before the game when Temples had failed to advance in the 3-point contest, Nugent pointed out.
“They booed him when he got beat,” the coach said. “He takes it personal. He’s a warrior … he put us on his back.”
“I only hit four [3-pointers in the contest],” Temples added. “I hit that many in the fourth quarter.”
Temples’ 18-point last eight minutes gave him a game-high 23 points, plus 10 rebounds and six steals for the Tigers. Martin took advantage of his opening to add 18 points, while Riley Spencer had nine points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Sophomore stars Brent Headrick and Travis Schoonover had 11 and 10 points respectively to lead Reed-Custer, but they were a combined 6 for 35 from the field.