Just when you think you’ve got the Spartans where you want them, in some foul trouble, in an unfriendly environment, they step up and nail those long-range soul crushers. Wayne, for example, had Homestead in its sights in the early stages of the fourth quarter of Homestead’s 60-54 win Friday in a Class 4A sectional semifinal at Wayne.
The Generals had gone on a mini-run, 7-2, to pull within 48-45 with less than four minutes left on a Kylon Jarreau bucket inside. The opening was there.
Then came The Killer Threes.
Homestead’s Sam Buck hit a three-pointer. Twenty-two seconds later, teammate Jack Ferguson hit an even deeper three-pointer. Homestead was up 54-45 and in full control. The Spartans (22-3) will play Muncie Central (10-14) at 7 p.m. Saturday for the sectional title.
“We’re a three-point shooting team, I know we are,” Homestead coach Chris Johnson said. “Yeah, we’d like to get an inside-out type of game going, but our strength is our shooters. We want to get up and down the floor and get them ready to stand up and hit their shots.”
Ferguson is Enemy No. 1 of a perimeter defense, a shooter with range that extends to the vicinity of 25 to 30 feet. He hit six of the Spartans’ 12 three-pointers against Wayne.
“You can’t give that kid an inch,” Wayne coach Aaron Rehrer said. “You can’t give him an inch. You can’t.”
“That’s a great thing Jack does, he stretches defense,” Johnson said. “They have to guard him out there. He’s a phenomenal shooter, and a great young man and I’m proud of him being able to move on and hit those big shots.”
Ferguson had help on the outside, which was needed with big man Brandon Durnell in foul trouble much of the second half. Buck hit three threes. Grant Raber – son of Wayne athletic director Gary Raber, no less – hit two big threes, including one after Wayne’s Craig Young threw down a monster dunk to ignite the crowd. Durnell also hit a three.
“Us being able to shoot the three, when we’re on, we’re a really good team,” Ferguson said. “When they’re not falling, we have to be able to adjust and find other ways to score. …When they’re going in, we look good.”
Homestead finished the regular season ranked No. 11 in Class 4A Associated Press poll, but the Spartans have been overshadowed locally by No. 4 North Side, which beat Homestead twice. Homestead’s other loss was to Snider, which handed North Side one of the Legends’ two losses.
Two years ago, with Caleb Swanigan, Tahj Curry, Jordan Geist and Dana Batt leading the way, the Spartans won the state title.
This year’s team doesn’t have the perceived star power, so it hasn’t garnered as much attention. That could change if the Spartans emerge as sectional champs.
“I think we are overlooked and we love it,” Ferguson said. “We love being the underdog. It gets us that much more excited, and makes us work that much harder.”
Johnson, who has coached the Spartans to at least 20 wins in five of the last six seasons, shrugs off any lack of hype.
“I’m never worried about what people say or what people think,” Johnson said. “We know what type of team we have and what type of kids we have. That’s fine. If people want to keep forgetting about us, we have no issues with that. We’ll keep coming out and see where we’re at after 32 minutes.”
The game was tied at halftime and after Young scored nine of his 11 points in the third quarter, Wayne trailed by only three (a Ferguson three, to be precise) entering the fourth quarter.
Rehrer emphasized before the game he wanted the Generals (11-12) to display focus, a great attitude, an active, engaged bench and play as hard as they possibly could.
The Generals, led by Kylon Jarreau with 13 points, displayed all those traits.
Homestead simply shot them down in the second half.
“I told them before the game, ‘They’re going to hit some shots,’ ” Rehrer said. “They’re a good passing team and they’re going to hit some shots and you have to respond. I thought we did, but down the stretch they hit some big ones we couldn’t recover from.”
Those were The Killer Threes.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.