Springfield trailed Xenia by 13 points at the end of the third quarter of a Division I sectional final Friday at Centerville. The Buccaneers had controlled the game to that point by shooting over 50 percent from the field and dominating the boards.
When two of Springfield’s top scorers fouled out in the fourth quarter, things looked bleak. But the Wildcats stormed back to tie at the end of the fourth quarter, and Michael McKay hit a foul shot with 2.2 seconds left in overtime to lift them to a 73-72 win over Xenia.
It’s the third consecutive sectional title for the Wildcats, and the win puts the team in a district final next Saturday at UD Arena.
“This shows our depth, shows our fight, and shows our grit,” Springfield coach Isaiah Carson said.
Though several Springfield players made crucial plays, McKay scored the biggest points. He also hit a 3-pointer with about 35 seconds left in regulation to tie it 64-64.
“It was mostly adrenaline that was pumping through me,” McKay said of his game-winning free throw. “I just knew I had to get up there and hit one shot.”
RELATED: High School results for March 3
Samari Curtis hit a basket with 10 seconds left in the third quarter to put Xenia on top 55-42. Springfield’s comeback chances began to look bleak in the fourth after leading scorer Danny Davis fouled out early in the period.
RaHeim Moss hit a put-back with about four minutes left to cut the Buccaneers’ lead to 57-52, but he fouled out a few seconds later.
With two key players on the bench, junior forward Leonard Taylor knew the rest of the team had to step up.
“It motivated me and Mike (McKay),” Taylor said. “We knew we had to finish the game for Danny and RaHeim and that we’d have to step up.”
RELATED: Saben leads Centerville past Wayne
And the ‘Cats did step up. Michael Wallace and McKay hit back-to-back baskets to cut Xenia’s lead to 59-58 with 3:01 left. JaJuan Rodgers hit a 3-pointer to bring Springfield within 62-61 late in the fourth, but Brandon Love made a basket with 1:07 left to give Xenia a three-point lead. McKay then hit the tying 3-pointer, and Xenia called a timeout after the shot.
The Buccaneers worked the ball past halfcourt, and Springfield got a steal with about 20 seconds left and ran the clock down before passing to Rodgers, who missed a 3-pointer from the right wing with about a second left.
Love hit a basket with 45 seconds left in overtime to give Xenia a 70-68 lead, but McKay scored after a steal to tie the game. Springfield fouled Kobe Hughlett on a 3-point try with about six seconds left, and he made his first two free-throw attempts but missed a third.
McKay grabbed the rebound and dribbled to halfcourt and was then fouled by Hughlett, who was trying to get a steal. Springfield was in the double-bonus, which gave McKay two shots.
Davis was sitting nervously on the bench while watching the final minutes, but he said he knew Springfield had won the game when McKay got the opportunity to go to the free-throw line.
“He’s been with me since seventh grade,” Davis said. “That’s my boy. We’ve been working together for a long time and I had confidence in him to knock that one down. We fought through it tonight, and that’s what good teams do.”
After McKay missed his second attempt, Curtis grabbed the rebound and dribbled to halfcourt before launching a desperation shot that bounced off the glass.
Xenia made 28-of-49 shot attempts (57.1 percent) and outrebounded Springfield 34-32. The Buccaneers had nine more rebounds in the first half while Taylor was on the bench with foul trouble. Xenia led 35-29 at halftime.
“We didn’t execute well tonight at all,” Carson said. “We didn’t really play like ourselves tonight. We honestly played their game for the most part until we put the pressure on them late.”
McKay led Springfield (21-3) with 18 points, while Danny Davis added 15. Taylor finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Hughlett led Xenia with 21 points, while Love added 18. Curtis finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Springfield’s district final opponent will be determined on tonight when Wilmington and Cincinnati Oak Hills play in a sectional final at Fairfield High School. The winner will face the Wildcats next Saturday at UD Arena at a time to be determined.