St. John-Endicott and Curlew played a nothing-to-lose game Saturday afternoon that left both teams with the glow of winners.
SJE (23-6) came out on top on the Arena scoreboard, 63-60 in double overtime, but opposing coaches Darrell Miller and Steve Brown were both overjoyed with the class their teams displayed.
Miller’s excitement came from earning the third-place trophy at the 56th boys State B basketball tournament with a group that was projected as a third-place finisher in the Whitman County League.
And SJE did so with sophomore Karl Scheuerman cashing in for 24 points, including six in the second overtime, and junior Grant Bafus adding three 3-pointers and 20 points.
“We knew Saturday was going to be a no-lose situation, so we could play our most relaxed ball of the year,” said third-year Eagles coach Miller. “I’m just so very proud of this team.
“That was a tremendous game to be involved in.”
Brown, after accepting the sixth-place trophy with his Cougars (24-7), took solace in knowing that his exhausted group didn’t take a dive after Friday’s emotional semifinal loss to Valley Christian.
“We played five quarters’ (worth of) ball today,” said the sixth-year Cougars coach. “The kids gave all they had. I really love these kids. Many times I feel like they’re my own kids.”
Brown probably didn’t recognize his team during the final 6.4 seconds, when Scheuerman went to the free-throw line with two shots and a chance to add to SJE’s 61-60 lead. Cougars point guard Jeremy Grothhad just fouled out, joining starters Seth Cribby and Erich Prazak on the bench.
Scheuerman hit both shots, leaving Curlew stalwart Gunner Olsen with one last chance, a 3-point attempt that bounced off the rim.
“Gunner Olsen and Jeremy Groth are great talents,” Scheuerman said. “It takes a lot of hard work to shut them down, and you never really do.”
The Eagles, whose Friday semifinal was earlier than Curlew’s, came out with fresher legs Saturday and took an 11-3 lead with a 9-0 run.
That advantage never dipped to less than six points until Groth hit his first of three 3-pointers, with 3:16 left in the first half. The shot spurred a 15-6 run, capped by Caleb Edwards’ 3-pointer before the buzzer, for a 28-27 Cougars lead.
The back-and-forth second half started leaning the Eagles’ way midway through the fourth quarter, when Scheuerman’s putback and a Josh Hames free throw resulted in a 50-45 lead.
But Curlew tied the game with an Olsen basket and Groth’s 3-pointer with 2:30 left. Groth had another game-tying basket, on an inbounds play with 1:02 left, to force OT. Curlew worked the clock for the final 42 seconds, but came up empty on Prazak’s off-balance 3-pointer.
Olsen’s basket early in the first OT held up until John Stoner drove for a 2-pointer with 31 seconds left. Groth dribbled away the final ticks and missed the potential game-winning shot.
Scheuerman’s three-point play after a reverse layup put SJE ahead to stay for the last 2:45 of the game.
“The last game of the season you have nothing to lose,” said Bafus, who added three crucial points after Scheuerman’s big play. “You have to leave it all out there.”
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