It was billed as a decided underdog in Francis Howell going against perennial power Hazelwood Central.
After 44 crazy, gut-wrenching minutes of basketball, it will likely be remembered as a classic.
Francis Howell junior guard Daylan Dalton’s last-gasp three-pointer clanged the rim at the buzzer, and Hazelwood Central held off a gritty Vikings club for an 85-82 win in the second game of Day 4 of the GAC/Suburban Shootout at Lindenwood University’s Hyland Arena.
The finish was tough end to a great performance for the Vikings but there was no frustration for Howell in this one against the highly-rated Hawks.
“My kids fight, they work hard and we don’t back down from anybody,” Francis Howell coach Kurt Jacob said. “They are extremely good kids and we’ve got some guys that can play a little bit and I think some people saw that tonight.”
The big crowd that gathered late got to see the Vikings push the run and gun Hawks out of the their comfort zone constantly with strong defense and rebounding as the Vikings traded buckets with the Hawks in the first quarter.
“To beat a team like Hazelwood Central you have to play extremely good defense and rebound well to have a chance,” Jacob said.
Dalton drilled a three-ball to push the Vikings to a 30-23 lead with 3:05 left in the second quarter.
Hazelwood Central closed the gap in the final minute of the half on a free-throw from senior guard Shaun Williams to cut the lead to 32-29.
The teams continued to trade shots in the third quarter as the Hawks led 48-47 after the third stanza.
A Dalton layup pushed the Vikings to a 57-51 lead with 4:01 left in regulation but a Williams steal, breakout jam and a free-throw put the Hawks ahead 60-58 with 1:58 left.
Matt Schark brought Howell even at 60-60 with a pair of free-throws on the other end.
Hazelwood Central (7-0) after spreading floor for the last shot, came up empty on four shot attempts, and the first overtime arrived.
The Hawks led by three in the first overtime but a Schark 3-ball tied it at 65-65 with 1:12 left in the first extra period.
Neither could score to close out the first overtime and then in the second overtime, buckets by Tanner Williamson and Dalton pushed a the Vikings ahead 73-67 but a Cameron Williams steal and dunk forced a 73-73 tie and the end of the second OT period. Williams had a game-high 26 points while Shaun Williams scored scored 18 points.
“We just started buying in on defense,” Cameron Williams said. “When we can get breaks and dunks, we can get our people going. It’s huge for us when we can do that.”
In the third overtime, Dalton hit a pair of free-throws to give Howell a 79-76 lead with 1:33 to go but Central senior guard Telly Wright answered with a three-ball and a pair of clutch foul shots. Wright’s scoring finished out a 7-3 run to help the Hawks hang on. “We stick together as a team, so whenever things get hard, we just pull things together and we get through,” Wright said.
Dalton hit a three-ball to pull the Vikings within one with 10.9 left but his last three-ball would not make the mark.
“We are an experienced team that has played a lot of high-level basketball and our practices are war, so this game was similar to our practices,” Hazelwood Central coach Brandon Gilmore said. “Francis Howell’s a good team and they made a lot of good plays and a lot of good baskets.”
Dalton paced the Vikings with 26 points. Matt Schark pumped in 23 points.
Francis Howell (4-2) will use experience of taking Hazelwood Central to the wire, to get them ready for the Mary Institute/Country School Holiday Tournament which begins action on Dec. 21.
“We’ve got a week of practice to get better and it will be a tough tournament and we’re looking forward to it,” Jacob said.