By STEVE WILAJ
As fate seemed to want it, the ball squirted through the legs of a South Range player and into the hands of Springfield’s Eeoghan Bees with seven seconds left and his team trailing by one point.
Bees had to go the length of the court to save the Tigers’ season.
“It just really came down to, I didn’t want my career to end here,” said Bees, a senior. “I didn’t want to lose to my rival — especially as the one-seed in my first tournament game — to end my career. I just wanted to play another game.”
The Springfield guard went the length of the court, side-stepped a defender and laid the ball over South Range center Tyler Beverly with 3.1 seconds left to regain the lead.
It propelled the Tigers to a 42-41 victory in Wednesday’s Division III sectional. St. Thomas Aquinas beat United in the opener, 104-43.
“I looked up, recognized the clock and looked at the situation,” he said. “From there, I didn’t have time to really make any decisions, so I just went with my instincts.”
South Range opened the fourth quarter on a 15-2 run and led by seven points with three minutes remaining. The Raiders still led 41-37 with 27 seconds left and possession of the ball.
But South Range then missed four straight foul shots.
Meanwhile, Tigers center Mark Schuler hit a 3 with 10 seconds remaining — only his third of the season — to cut the deficit to 41-40.
“Somehow, some way, we found a way to win,” said Tigers coach Eric Fender, whose team is 3-0 against the Raiders this year. “Did the better team tonight come out on top? I don’t know. But it’s not about that. It’s about finding a way.”
“It looked like we had control of the game,” South Range coach Dave Purins said. “We should have put it away at the free throw line, but didn’t.
“It just doesn’t seem right we have to go home feeling like this.”