Boys Basketball: Jake Maestranzi’s shot at buzzer lifts South Elgin past HampshireSouth Elgin's Eric Stazy (33) defends against Hampshire's Brock Ralphs on Tuesday at Hampshire. | Kevin D. Sherman ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 29, 2011 9:32PM
Every possession became magnified Tuesday night as South Elgin and host Hampshire plugged away at a methodical pace, so it was fitting the game’s outcome came down to the final shot.
With his team trailing by one point with 2.6 seconds remaining, Storm point guard Jacob Maestranzi took an inbound pass near halfcourt, dribbled up the sideline, around a host defenders and into the lane for a buzzer-beating layup.
The basket lifted South Elgin to another grind-it-out victory as it edged the Whip-Purs 31-30 in non-conference action.
Maestranzi drained four three-pointers and finished with a game-high 16 points, but the 5-foot-7 junior’s ability to navigate traffic in crunch time against a significantly taller Whips defense made the biggest difference.
“My dad always told me if there’s 2.5 seconds or over you’ve got three dribbles,” Maestranzi said. “So I knew I had three dribbles and I came off it hard. I was lucky I was open.”
Considering the lack of offense, Hampshire (1-4) appeared to be in control when sharpshooter Tyler Crater went to the free-throw line looking to extend his team’s 30-26 lead with 1:16 left. But Crater missed the front end of a one-and-one, and following a time out Maestranzi drilled a three-pointer from the left wing to pull the Storm within 30-29.
That’s where the score remained as the teams traded turnovers on the next two possessions. The Whips were whistled for a 10-second violation following Maestranzi’s triple, but South Elgin (4-1) couldn’t capitalize as it committed an over-and-back violation on an in-bounds pass following a series of non-shooting fouls.
Hampshire’s Ryan Cork went to the line with seven seconds left and missed a one-and-one. The carom went out of bounds to the Storm, who had two in-bound plays whistled dead by a foul and a tipped pass before Maestranzi worked his last-second magic.
“That Maestranzi kid, he pump faked us in the air all day,” Hampshire coach Bob Barnett said. “And he faked us there at the end too.”
The defeat was another disappointing setback for the Whips, who entered the season with high hopes as a big group of players returned from last year’s 20-win team.
Hampshire took only 20 shots from the field against South Elgin, connecting on 10 of the attempts. Senior Tyler Watzlawick led the Whips with 10 points but was scoreless in the second half. Cork added eight points.
“We improved today,” Barnett said. “In our wildest imagination did we think we’d be 1-4? No, but that’s what it is.”
Lacking size and experience, South Elgin has been willing to slow things down to a snail’s pace early in the season. The Storm took its time every trip down the floor against Hampshire’s zone defense.
Willy Gagic had four points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals for the Storm, which connected on only 12-of-32 shots (37.5 percent) from the field.
“We couldn’t just come down the floor and jack up shots and give an advantage to (Hampshire) by playing into their favor,” South Elgin coach Chaz Taft said. “We wanted to take time off the clock and work the possession against the zone. The two days we prepared for this game we told the guys we want our shot, not what they want us to take.”