Basketball: McQueen upends Douglas in last-second heartbreaker
It’ll go down as McQueen senior Kody Eckert driving the lane and nailing a fade away floater with 4.5 seconds left to deliver a 60-59 victory for his team.
The difference in the game, though, came in the first quarter as the upstart Lancers hit four 3-pointers and exploded for 24 points on their way to an upset of the Sierra League champion Douglas Tigers in the first round of the playoffs in Minden Tuesday night.
It was McQueen’s fourth win in a row, dating back to when Douglas put the Lancers on the brink of elimination from the playoffs with an 18-point win in Minden three weeks ago. In the time since, the Lancers got a boost in the form of 6-7, 250-pound Rite Of Passage transfer DaeShawn Patterson, who became eligible directly after his team first lost to Douglas.
For Douglas, it snapped a 13-game win streak and ended strong hopes of claiming the program’s first-ever large-school regional title.
Despite the disparity in both record and seeding, it was clear from the outset that McQueen was going to make things interesting.
The Lancers came out in a high-pressure man defense and quickly opened up a 5-1 lead on a 3-pointer from Kendall DeWeese and a runner from Eckert.
From there, the game played out very much like a high-stakes heavyweight fight with each team throwing momentum swinging punches at each other through the remainder of the game.
A second DeWeese 3-pointer put the Lancers up 8-3 but Douglas answered with a 6-0 run. Then McQueen went 6-0. Then Douglas 6-0 to close the gap to 17-15 with 1:54 remaining in the quarter.
That’s when Patterson entered the game for the first time. McQueen closed out the quarter with a 10-2 run, highlighted by a pair of baskets from Patterson and a pair of 3-pointers from Eckert to set the score at 24-17.
McQueen extended the run to 19-7 through the first three minutes of the second quarter to go up 33-22.
“We just didn’t match their intensity early on,” Douglas coach Corey Thacker said. “They came out read to go and we just weren’t as intense. When we finally started getting out and challenging those outside shots, then we started getting back into it.”
“They put us down by 11 and that took a lot of work to get back in. It’s really a credit to the kids.”
Indeed, Douglas was far from finished.
Michael Nolting scored on a drive underneath the basket and Hunter Myers hit a pair of free throws to close the score back down to 33-26.
The Tigers extended that run to 10-2 to close out the half and Myers and AJ Pfaffenberger each nailed two free throws and Joe Syammach scored on an arcing shot over Patterson’s outstretched hands.
“Our guys showed a lot of heart,” Thacker said. “They came back, it was really how a lot of our season went. They fought back after getting down early and refused to back down.”
The third quarter played out much like the first half with McQueen starting on a 4-0 run, followed by a 7-0 run from Douglas, then an 8-0 run that put the Lancers up by 11 again at 49-39 with 3:07 left.
A pair of James Herrick free throws, though, helped swing the momentum back in the Tigers’ direction. Austin Evans followed with a breakaway lay-up with 57 seconds left in the quarter and then completed a 7-0 run by nailing a 3-pointer with 6.7 seconds left to cut the score to 48-46.
A 4-0 run to open the fourth bumped the Lancers up to a 52-46 lead, but another 7-0 run from the Tigers — their third of the second half — gave Douglas its third lead of the game at 53-52 with 5:27 remaining.
Evans again hit from the right corner for third and final 3-pointer of the night to finish off the 7-0 run. He finished with 16 points while Myers led the Tigers with 17.
“Our thing all year has been getting stops and making runs,” Thacker said. “Stops fuel the runs. We were able to do that over the final three quarters. We won every quarter but one tonight, and it was the first that cost us. It just goes to show you that especially in the playoffs, you have to come ready to play.
Following Evan’s 3-pointer, McQueen came right back with a basket from Eckert and the built the lead to 55-53 on a free throw from Patterson.
Nolting scored on a reverse layup to tie the game at 55 and Evans hit the back end of a pair of free throws to put the Tigers up 65-55 with 1:31 remaining.
Patterson put the Lancers back out in front on a layup with 1:17 remaining and Nolting grabbed the lead back for Douglas at 58-57 when he tipped in a Herrick miss with 56.2 seconds left.
Eckert got to the line with 29 seconds remaining, hit his first shot to tie the game at 58 and then missed the second, which Herrick was able to corral. He was fouled by Patterson on the rebound, so Herrick went to the line with 28 seconds left and he too hit the front end for the 59-58 lead.
He missed the second, though, and McQueen controlled the rebound. The Lancers were able to run almost the entirety of the clock off before Eckert drove inside for the eventual game-winner for 4.5 seconds left.
“Eckert, compliment to him,” Thacker said. “He made a great shot, it was a nice floater.”
Out of the timeout, Nolting inbounded the ball and Douglas got the ball to Myers on the left side where he was able to get off a clean shot. The ball sailed just wide, though, and the buzzer sounded before Douglas could manage a put-back.
“McQueen is a team that comes out and plays very hard,” Thacker said. “They live by that 3-pointer. That’s what got them ahead at the beginning of the game. They knocked down their shots. They hit 5 3-pointers in the first half and then none the rest of the game.
“We figured it out, started getting a hand in their face. But we just didn’t get it done.”
Nolting put up eight points for Douglas, Syammach had seven, Herrick had four, Jaden Mustacchio and Pat Johnson each had three and AJ Pfaffenberger had two.
McQueen got 19 points from Eckert, 12 from Bryce Harnack and 11 each from DeWees and Patterson.