A 1-point game and 15.1 seconds left. Homestead and DeKalb had battled all night, with the Spartans clinging to the lead and set to inbound the ball.
Except Homestead would never have to pass it.
Intentional foul on DeKalb for grabbing a jersey, and Homestead's Joe Ault would convert both free throws.
After nailing another free throw when fouled on the ensuing possession, the Spartans had the lead they would need to clinch the game as it beat DeKalb 51-50 at East Noble in the Carroll Shootout Tournament. The win moved the Spartans onto the gold bracket to be played at Carroll tomorrow evening against the other pools top teams. DeKalb will compete in the silver bracket.
“It was a gutsy win,” Homestead coach Chris Johnson said. “We had a tough time against Concordia the other night where we didn't hit foul shots when we needed to. So, it was good to hit foul shots when we needed to win this victory against a very good DeKalb club.”
The call and free throws were extremely important in a game where points were hard to come by. DeKalb did its best to slow the game down and limit a Homestead team that averages nearly 70 points a game.
On multiple possessions, the Barons would take a minute off the clock before taking a shot. And for three and a half quarters it worked, as DeKalb held a 7-point lead, the largest either team would have all night.
“It was a tale of two different teams,” DeKalb head coach Joe Everingham said. “One team was trying to pound it inside, and we tried to pull them away from the basketball with their big guys.”
Eventually, though, Homestead decided it wouldn't play at the glacial pace anymore and implemented a full-court press.
“We had to somehow get the tempo going in our favor,” Johnson said. “I thought we were able to get the ball going then and get some easy transition buckets to get us moving a little bit better on the offensive end.”
Homestead's Nick Gamble dictated part of this. The senior guard ended the game with 17 points, 13 in the second half, but also had multiple steals that lead to easy layups to bring the Spartans back.
“It's hard for us (to play a slow pace),” Gamble said. “Every possession means that much more when you play their style of play, but I think once we got settled into the game and got some better shots in the second half we got back in it.”
This play led to the exciting last 45 seconds of the game. Trailing by five, DeKalb's Cole Hartman hit a 3-pointer to bring the Barons within two. On the ensuing play, the Spartans lost control of the ball and multiple players were diving around on the floor near midcourt for both teams.
Eventually, DeKalb came away with the ball and had a two-on-one, but couldn't convert as it missed a contested layup. After a free throw made by Gamble and a quick inside shot for DeKalb, it was a 1-point game.
And then the critical whistle blew.
Thankfully for Homestead, this sound was followed by “swish, swish” as it sank both free throws and DeKalb's chance for the win.