OREGON – Playing three starters short might have fazed the Rock Falls Rockets for a short while Thursday night at the Blackhawk Center, but they recovered in winning time.
With Austin Babcock fouled out, Alex Leaf lost to a first-half ankle injury, and Connor Olson still out with a concussion, their replacements stepped up big-time in the Rockets' 67-63 overtime win over the Oregon Hawks.
Wharff had 21 points and nine rebounds, and Austin Donoho hit the game-tying shot and assisted on the go-ahead bucket in the extra period as Rock Falls (19-6, 7-4 Big Northern West) erased a five-point deficit in the game's final 45 seconds.
"It's always tough when players the caliber of Alex, Connor and Austin go down or go out," Donoho said, "but that just means other guys have to step up and play like them. Us non-starters did what we had to do to help the team win."
Rock Falls led by as many as 11 four times, the last 42-31 with 2:17 left in the third quarter. But Oregon (12-13, 1-10) chipped away, using a 13-3 run to end the third and open the fourth. Alec Ketter (13 points, 6 rebounds) scored the first two baskets in the run, and Ian Holley's 3-pointer from the left corner brought the Hawks to within 45-44 with 5:52 to play.
"We started playing together, relying on each other and having confidence in our offense," Ketter said of the run. "Caleb [Mowry] and I switched in the post, because I had a shorter guy guarding me, and we got a couple of baskets inside to get us going."
Rock Falls led by either one or three over the next 5 minutes. Holden White's putback was followed by a Steven Armoska miss, and Oregon got the rebound and called timeout with 21.3 seconds to go. Alex Cain (6 points, 8 rebounds) converted Holley's alley-oop pass into a layup for a 54-53 Hawks lead with 11.6 seconds left.
But Babcock drove to the basket and drew a foul with 3.1 seconds to go. He hit the second free throw to tie the game at 54, then Holley's half-court heave was wide right.
Mowry (23 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists) hit a 3 to open OT, then followed Babcock's floater in the lane with a pair of free throws a minute later to give Oregon a 60-58 lead. After each team came up with empty possessions, Mowry played the high-low game with Ketter for a lob over the top. Ketter hit the layup, then the ensuing free throw for a 63-58 Oregon lead with 52.6 seconds remaining.
"I thought we had control in the final 2 minutes of regulation, then again in the final 2 minutes of overtime," Oregon coach Quinn Virgil said, "but we had some crucial turnovers, and then we let them get into the lane and do some damage."
Babcock (10 points, 6 assists) answered the Ketter three-point play with a deep 3-pointer from the left wing, then Oregon turned the ball over three times in the final 37 seconds to give the Rockets a chance to win … and they took it.
After Babcock fouled out on a charge, Donoho (9 points, 3 assists) hit a pull-up jumper in the lane to tie the score with 11.2 seconds left, then found Armoska (16 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 assists) on an inbounds pass for the go-ahead bucket with 3 seconds to go.
"We had a couple of options on that play, but Austin found me and I found an opening," Armoska said. "We've come through in the clutch all year, and we got another one tonight."
Oregon called timeout immediately, but didn't have any left, resulting in a technical foul. Armoska hit both free throws, then the Rockets inbounded the ball and held on as time expired.
"The turnovers killed us the last few possessions, and good teams take advantage of that," Mowry said. "They jumped on us with their press, and we got nervous and flustered and threw the ball around."
Holley had six points and four assists, Holden White added eight points and three assists, and Jessie McKinley Jr. chipped in five points and four assists for Oregon.
Jace Anderson was the only other Rocket to score, hitting three 3s and finishing with 11 points.
"We've had a few games lately where we were up at the beginning, then kind of slowed down and let the other team back in it," Wharff said. "But we played with heart at the end, believed in ourselves, and found a way to come out with the win."
Rock Falls 67, Oregon 63, OT
Star of the game: Steven Armoska, RF, 16 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 assists, go-ahead basket with 2 seconds left
Key performers: Daegan Wharff, RF, 21 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals; Austin Babcock, RF, 10 points, 6 assists; Austin Donoho, RF, 9 points, 3 assists, 2 steals; Caleb Mowry, Oregon, 23 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals; Alec Ketter, Oregon, 13 points, 6 rebounds; Alex Cain, Oregon, 6 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals
Up next: Oregon at Byron, 7:15 p.m. Tuesday; Stillman Valley at Rock Falls, 7:15 p.m. Friday