DIXON – The Sauk Valley men's basketball team completed their comeback bid to defeat the Kennedy-King Statesmen 60-58 in an overtime thriller Saturday.
A free throw by sophomore Chris Fritsch gave Sauk a 56-54 lead with 25 seconds remaining.
On the Statesmen's ensuing possession, they took a different approach. Rather than pound the ball into their best player on the floor – sophomore forward Frank Williams – the ball was placed in sophomore point guard Charles George.
George took the ball in the left corner and drove to the baseline side. There he was met by a swarm of Skyhawks, but this didn't slow him down. He continued to leap and complete the reverse layup through the crowd to tie the score up at 56 with just under 10 seconds remaining, and ultimately forced overtime.
In the overtime period, not much was accomplished. Turnovers and empty possessions added up for both squads and neither team scored until the final minute.
The scoring drought was broken by Fritsch, who scored an unorthodox bucket.
Freshman guard Jacoby Posely shot a 3-pointer from the left corner for the Skyhawks. It rimmed out into a sea of hands of potential rebounders.
One pair of those hands belonged to Fritsch, who tipped it towards the rim. As he did this, he was pushed to the ground. The ball bounced around the rim and thought about falling out, but finally fell through.
Fritsch stepped to the line and sank his free throw to complete his dramatic put-back and gave Sauk the lead at 59-56 with 30 seconds left.
"I just rebounded," Fritsch said. "Crashed the boards. I was struggling, I air-balled a couple of shots. I couldn't make a jump shot. I had to do something to get myself going, and crashing the boards is something that I do. Plays like that happen all the time."
Kennedy-King started off the game firing on all cylinders. Williams made his first three shots, including an alley-oop lob play. The forward finished with 25 points off of 11field goals. Its defense was even better, as Kennedy-King led the Skyhawks 10-1, 5 minutes into the game.
The Statesmen slightly extended their lead, as it got up to 11 points with 7:17 left in the first half.
Sauk sophomore Murphy cut down the lane and made a circus layup in the process of getting fouled, cutting the deficit to 19-11, and giving his team the momentum.
"He's really starting to come along," Sauk coach Rus Damhoff said, "putting it on the floor and going and scoring. We really need that out of him. He's got some talent. He is one of our guys that can put it on the floor and shoot the 3. He's a tough kid, and he also played really good defensively for us, too."
A long two by Posely and a coast-to-coast layup from freshman Tramel Rideout cut into the lead, but the Skyhawks still trailed 29-22 at half.
Murphy once again found himself in the middle of the scoring for Sauk in the second half. He had two succesful three-point plays that gave his team a shot of emotion.
"Both games this semester he's been more aggressive off the dribble," Damhoff said. "We have been talking to him about that. He's got that skill, so I am really happy for him. Got a little emotional too, a couple of times. But, with a team like that, you better have someone who is ready to battle."
Despite these efforts, Kennedy-King still had answers. Another alley-oop to Williams with 5-minutes left gave the Statesmen a 52-48 lead.
On the ensuing Sauk possession, Murphy showed off his range, as he knocked down a 3 to pull the Skyhawks within one. This was his last effort before picking up his fifth foul, but it gave his team the momentum it needed to close out. Murphy finished with 22 points.
"We knew Kennedy-King coming in is a heck of a defensive team," Damhoff said. "They just get right up into you and get after you. It really bothered us, but we had enough guts to kind of stay. At the end of regulation, I probably could've taken a timeout, but I kind of thought the kick might have been open to the corner and let it play out. I didn't want to go to the extra period with our foul trouble, but we did and we made it through."
Star of the game: Jack Murphy, Sauk, 22 points
Key performers: Frank Williams, Kennedy-King, 25 points
Up next: Sauk Valley at Black Hawk, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday