Sacred Heart boy’s basketball overcame its toughest opponent of the year Saturday, March 4, advancing to the Class 2 state semifinals in an overtime victory over Wellington-Napoleon, 69-66, at Liberty High School in Liberty.
The Gremlin coup snapped a 27-game Wellington-Napoleon win streak and secured its first appearance in the final four since 2014, when Sacred Heart won the Class 2 state title.
Trent Lyles led Sacred Heart with 19 points, Colby Young scored 17 and Alden Harding finished with 13 points, going 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in overtime.
Micah Tanguay, who totaled 10 points, had the lone Gremlin field goals of the overtime period.
Duncan Hughes scored a game-high 26 points for Wellington-Napoleon, with 15 points off threes.
The Tigers clawed back from near every setback – including a 6-point deficit with less than a minute to play in OT.
Wellington-Napoleon cleaned up a 10-point deficit in the first half and led 40-38 with 4:20 to play in the third quarter after a Hughes 3-pointer.
Teams were locked at 54 points each and exchanged one field goal apiece in four minutes before overtime.
With 7.5 seconds to play, Lyles disrupted the Wellington-Napoleon inbounds pass to Jordon Hill near the perimeter, batting out of reach the Tigers’ equalizer chance and remarkable season in one fell swoop.
Gremlin head coach Steve Goodwin said the timeout before that final possession was a blur.
“We weren’t going to allow a three,” Goodwin said. “If we felt like they were dribbling to get a clean look and we got picked, we were going to foul.
“It’s a magical day for Sacred Heart High School and for the Gremlins.”
Lyles stretched a 1-point lead after the first quarter into a 22-14 advantage with two straight threes.
In the second quarter, two Tiger offensive rebounds and a Blake Bunch putback trimmed the score to 30-26. The third and final trey from Lyles sent both teams into halftime.
Wellington-Napoleon (27-2) bookended the 2016-17 season with overtime losses. The Tigers opened its campaign with a triple-overtime shortfall to Lawson, 82-76, and won 27 straight games before Saturday.
Goodwin said the Tigers were one of a kind.
“Nobody shoots the three like they do,” Goodwin said. “Nobody has shooters like they do. They’re smart. They dribble-penetrate, they kick out. They’re true four guards, and we had to work our tail off to survive a few runs of theirs.”
In overtime, Hughes and Gavin Collins helped erase a 6-point Sacred Heart edge in less than 50 seconds. Harding, a senior, separated the Gremlins with three life-and-death free throws before Lyles’ key steal.
The Gremlins return to Columbia for the first time since a 2-point loss to Salisbury on January 22 – the first of a 10-game absence of Harding to an arm injury – to face the Oran Eagles (21-8). Tip-off is scheduled for 3:20 p.m. Thursday at Hearnes Center.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2