Boys Basketball: TF South edges out Lincoln-Way Central
Updated: November 25, 2011 7:36PM
As the fourth quarter of Friday’s battle between Lincoln-Way Central and TF South began. Central coach Bob Curran could be heard yelling from the bench, “Who’s going to be a leader out there?”
Unfortunately for Curran, in a see-saw duel of two unbeaten teams that came down to the closing seconds, it was an opposing player who stepped up to answer his call.
Senior guard Paul Pierce’s running leaner in the lane with 16 seconds to go lifted T.F. South to a 45-42 victory in the championship game of the Pheast of Phoenix Thanksgiving Tournament at Lincoln-Way North.
“I just knew I had to get the bucket or get fouled,” said Pierce, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “The first three quarters didn’t go my way, our sophomores kept us in it. That play I just knew I had to step up as a senior and be the leader of this team.”
Central was holding a one-point lead with 32 seconds remaining, when Pierce and sophomore point guard Robert Ryan trapped a Knight ball handler underneath T.F. South’s basket. That caused an errant pass that was intercepted by Rebel center Armon Stewart near T.F. South’s three-point line. Seconds later, Pierce took a pass on the wing and drove into the lane for his game-winning shot, looping it just over the outstretched hand of 6-foot-8 Knights center Brad Foster.
The Rebels are now 4-0.
“This gives us really good confidence, because last year we came in here and we didn’t even place,” Pierce said. “So it feels real good to start the season off.”
Central (3-1) carried a 22-17 lead into the locker room at halftime. But T.F. South came out in the second half and upped its intensity, using pressure defense to cause turnovers on the Knights’ first three possessions.
Ryan (14 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals) knocked down a triple with 4:32 in the third quarter to give the Rebels their first lead of the ball game at 28-27. That touched off a dogfight down the stretch featured 11 lead changes in the final 12 minutes of the contest.
Senior shooting guard Johnny Finnin hit a pair of free throws with 43 seconds to put Central up 42-38. But sophomore forward Brad Bass knocked T.F. South’s Kenny Doss down as he was shooting a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession. Doss stepped to the stripe and calmly sank all three of his free throws. That set the stage for Pierce’s game winner.
“It was a very tough shot,” Rebels coach John O’Rourke said. “We played hard this tournament and we were lucky enough to pull it out.”
Central had a chance to answer Pierce’s heroics, but Stewart stepped up with his second big defensive play of the game, blocking Kevin Mampe’s layup with 1.5 seconds on the clock. Mampe absorbed a lot of contact while attempting his shot on the play, but no foul was called.
“I thought we went back to some old habits on defense in the second half,” Curran said. “They were aggressive, and we were sort of passive. We just had some bad mistakes. We found a way to lose, and they found a way to win.”
Foster was a force down low for the Knights, netting 17 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Pierce, who came in averaging close to 13.3 points per game in the tournament, finished with nine on 4-for-10 shooting. The game winner was his only bucket of the fourth quarter.