STERLING – Hopefully for Micah Miller, thriving under pressure is an acquired taste.
The Sterling junior, shortly after spinning to the goal to give his Golden Warriors their first lead in more than a period, rattled home a buzzer-beating 17-footer. It sent Musgrove Fieldhouse into frenzy, as the last second of a 45-43 Northern Illinois Big 12 West victory fell off the clock.
“I don’t really like the pressure,” Miller said.
“You liked it tonight,” Sterling coach Jim Preston chimed in.
“If I have to shoot it, I will,” Miller said.
Sterling (10-16, 4-5) rallied from down 37-31 with 6:54 to play, but Geneseo (9-15, 4-5) still could shoot to win when they inbounded the ball with the game tied at 43 and 15 seconds left.
But after Zach Rehmert, who led Sterling with 17 points, nearly stole the ball from Ethan Radue, the Geneseo junior lost it to Chase Shetter with 7 seconds left.
“I got beat, so my first response was, ‘Oh crap, dude, I just lost this for us,’” Rehmert said. “But, luckily, I got Chase and Draque [Penaflor-Heier] there to get that steal.”
Shetter moved it ahead to Logan Wharff, who drove and kicked to Miller. His jumper touched virtually every bit of the iron before rattling down as the last second elapsed.
“I was looking straight to the hoop, and I saw a white jersey pop over to my side,” Wharff said.
“That’s probably the best shot I’ve hit,” Miller said. “It felt good to finally win a close one, especially against Geneseo.”
Sterling freshman Sterling Thornton triggered the rally by finding Rehmert on a backdoor cut that made it 39-35. Rehmert had cooled off after hitting his first five shots of the game coming off the bench. He had a personal 8-1 run in the first period that made it 12-5 Warriors.
“I definitely don’t like coming off the bench,” said Rehmert, who admitted he didn’t start because of a lackluster week in practice. “I wanted to get out there, get shots up and help my team.”
Wharff hit two free throws and then contorted his body for a high-difficulty take on the next possession to tie it at 39. The teams swapped buckets before Miller spun through the paint and went glass for a 43-41 lead, Sterling’s first since being up 29-27 with 2:58 left in the third.
He pumped his fist after the lay-in. Preston thought about taking a timeout after the closing-second turnover, but decided to let Miller make another play.
“I’m glad I stayed out of the way,” Preston said.
Star of the game: Zach Rehmert, Sterling, 17 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, block
Key performers: Luke Snyder, Geneseo, 10 points, 4 rebounds, assist, steal; Jordan Starkey, Geneseo, 9 points, 2 rebounds, assist, steal; Drew Himmelman, Geneseo, 8 points, 6 rebounds; Micah Miller, Sterling, 4 points, including game-winning buzzer-beater, 4 steals
Up next: LaSalle-Peru at Sterling, 7:30 p.m. Friday