The game was tied 50-50 when Hyati's, 23-5 overall, Darius Jones scored the initial field goal of the extra session against the Van-Far varsity boys basketball team, 28-3 overall, in the class 2 championship game Friday at JQH Arena at Missouri State University in Springfield.
Verlyn Johnson then tied the game at 52-52 for the Indians, only to see Hayti's Chrivante Moore hit a three pointer shortly there after. When Lathyn McMorris followed all of that up with a field goal for Van-Far, it eventually became a 54-55 game with :53 seconds to play.
Several possesions later the Indians called a clear out play off of a sideline inbound pass after a well-called timeout for Trey Miller, who found himself being guarded one-on-one by a smaller defender, so he did what he does best and imposed his will all the way to the hoop to give his team a 56-55 victory.
"We haven't played a team as athletic as Hyati. They can do just about anything. They can shoot it and they shot well tonight," said forward Brayden Christian. "We haven't played a team that good. They were better than us at times, but we pulled it out. We weren't highly ranked, so we just tried to fight through each game. We have some of the toughest players in the conference and in the state. McMorris hit a big three, Miller played like a beast and Josh Hodde is the best guard in Missouri. We're all clutch."
As was the case in several other playoff games for Van-Far, they had to come back after a slow start, this time by a 17-7 margin in the first quarter. The second actually had a very specific theme that was missing in the opening session, though. That's because, after an early three-pointer by Lathyn McMorris, Caden Wilburn connected on a pair of triples of his own, as well as a pair of made free throws at 5:04 and 2:48 to cut the deficit to 27-20 heading into halftime.
"My main focus in the second quarter was that I didn't do much in the first and I was just trying to get myself invloved," said Wilburn. "I hit a three then I tried attacking the paint because once you hit from distance the defense starts running out. I just wanted to beat my defender and get some easy points. It's a good feeling to know coach has the confidence to go to me (again and again). It's a great feeling to prove people wrong, to show that we haven't been ranked, but should have been."
The third was actually a bit of a stumbling block for the Indians that once again started with a score by McMorris before Milller connected on a pair of field goals. Defensive specialist Johnson also got in on the action with a basket and a free throw as the game went to the fourth with Van-Far trailing 39-30.
"I get put in for defense because we run a certain play called Right. I stay up and mirror the ball," said Johnson. "I don't really score that often. This win is great. I'm so excited. I really don't know how we won because we were down by so much. We just came back at the end and had the will to win. This means a lot. I'm the second person in my family to win a state championship. I'm happy about it."
In the fourth it was all hands on deck as Miller, McMorris and Josh Hodde went on a 7-3 run for the Indians to make it a 42-37 game with 4:32 to play. When that same trio each scored again, yet Van-Far still found itself down 50-44 with 1:34 remaining, things weren't looking good.
But, instead of panicking, Miller sandwiched two scores around a basket by Brayden Christian, and all of the sudden that familiar feeling this team gives off was once again as present as ever, and just in time for the extra session.
"I know in order for this team to succeed I have to get to the hole and possibly kick out to shooters. Our ability to come through in the clutch is just a testament to how we play," said Hodde. "No one on this team cares about what people say about us. We know when it comes down to it we trust in each other to make a play. I've felt being a champion before, but this is completely on another level. This is as incredible as it is surreal. It's the last game of my career. It couldn't have went any better."
In order to earn the right to play in this game one night earlier in the semifinals Van-Far defeated Mid-Buchanan, 26-4 overall, 58-55. Prior to that the Indians beat Milan, 27-2 overall, 53-49 in the quarterfinals at Moberly Area Community College in overtime on March 3
"This is pretty great. I like the feeling of going out on top," Christian said. "It's sad that it's all over for me because I'm a senior, but I couldn't think of a better way to go out."