TOWNSHEND -- On the final day of February, Zach Wilkins made a shot that looked a lot like the ones we’re accustomed to seeing in March.
You know, the turn-around that UConn’s Tate George made in 1990 to beat Clemson, Christian Laettner’s dagger versus Kentucky two years later, and the last-second 3 by Valpo’s Bryce Drew that knocked out Ole Miss in 1998.
With the score deadlocked on Thursday evening, Wilkins drained a trifecta from the left wing in the final seconds to give the third-seeded Leland & Gray boys basketball team a 42-39 victory over No. 14 Peoples in a Division 3 playdown game.
"He was the last option, but they left him wide open and he hit a big shot," said Rebels coach Andrew Nystrom, who drew up the play with 10 seconds left. "It was designed to go to the basket. Zach was the screener, then he rolled back and got open for the 3."
The Rebels (16-5) will next host No. 6 BFA-Fairfax (15-6) in Saturday’s quarterfinal at 2 p.m. The Bullets walloped No. 11 Windsor 76-53 on Thursday.
The visiting Wolves looked nothing like a 14 seed as they rode Terrell Baker’s inside game to 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. But three quick buckets from Jake Sherman got Leland & Gray right back in it and it was a see-saw battle the rest of the way.
The Rebels went to the break up 17-16, but the lead would change hands six times in the third quarter. Durant-esque forward Drew Barnum,
Using a 2-3 zone, the hosts were able to finish the third quarter on a 6-0 run. Billy Nupp and Sherman applied the pressure up top, while Barnum, Michael Bergeron and Andy Brown took care of business on the interior.
A layup by Nupp ended the surge and put Leland & Gray ahead 29-24 with eight minutes remaining.
A couple of makes from beyond the arc by Jeremy Allen helped Peoples go up 33-31 with 5:20 to go. But with the "Let’s go Rebels" cheer coming from the home crowd, Barnum drilled a clutch 3 and Riley Kenney drained an open 15-footer to help the hosts go ahead 39-37 at the two-minute mark.
Nupp came up with a steal and Bergeron later took a charge to keep the Wolves off the board until a layup by Daniel Grimes knotted the score at 39-39 and set the stage for Wilkins.
After Nystrom called time with 10 seconds left and drew up a play, it was "the last option" who joined the likes of Tate, Laettner and Drew on a list of players who hit game-winning shots in the tournament.
"We don’t really have that one star. We have seven or eight guys that can hit a shot," noted Nystrom.
Barnum scored 11 points to lead the winners, Sherman followed with eight and Nupp pitched in with seven. Allen had a game-high dozen for the Wolves.
Shane Covey can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 163.