PARK HILLS – Karter Kekec mustered the strength to attack the basket one more time, and crushed the upset hopes of Fredericktown in a high-pressure situation on Tuesday night.
The sophomore guard battled through illness to sink a pair of free throws with 1.5 seconds to play, and third-seeded North County escaped 54-53 in an MAAA Tournament quarterfinal.
The Raiders (12-9) rallied from nine points down late in the third quarter, and advanced to face Potosi in the semifinal round on Friday despite being significantly short-handed.
North County drew within one when Cody Hubbard swished a corner 3-pointer with 27 seconds left, and drama would ensue with the charity stripe emerging front and center.
Dylan St. Clair answered with a layup off broken pressure while inducing contact, but could not convert the foul shot as the margin stayed at 53-50.
Kekec elected to make a quick layup instead of hoisting from long range, and the Blackcats fouled him on the finish. His free throw missed the mark, however, following a timeout with 10 seconds left.
St. Clair paced Fredericktown with 18 points, but suffered an empty trip to line as the margin remained at 53-52. Kekec conversely capitalized after being bumped on a desperation drive.
The Blackcats (10-10) generated a solid look as time expired. Senior Colton Rehkop cleanly caught a long inbounds past midcourt, but his desperate 30-footer caromed off the back iron.
Sophomore center Clayton Crow powered North County with 21 points, seven rebounds and five blocks, and carried a more prominent offensive role.
Senior forward John Starkey missed the game due to the flu, and Kekec – who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds – headed to the locker room twice to deal with an upset stomach.
Logan Winkelman netted nine points and Seth Laut claimed 14 rebounds for Fredericktown, which surged ahead 39-30 as 3-pointers by St. Clair and Grant Shankle spurred an 8-0 run.
Crow answered with a putback, and Kolten Poorman hit a 3-pointer before the third quarter ended. North County drew even at 46-46 on two Kekec free throws with 2:59 left.
Each team committed seven turnovers in the first quarter, and struggled to score with consistency. But the Blackcats nudged forward 17-12 on a corner three from Winkelman.
Poorman ended with 10 points, including five straight to bring the Raiders even. Fredericktown regained a 24-21 halftime edge when Alex Sikes kept a rebound alive and St. Clair banked in a runner.
Potosi 61, Arcadia Valley 58
PARK HILLS – Another tight battle between the Potosi and Arcadia Valley boys hinged on a final shot at the buzzer. This time, the Trojans dodged the bullet.
Senior guard Noah Jacobsen scored 14 of his game-high 21 points during the second half, and second-seeded Potosi prevailed 61-58 in MAAA Tournament quarterfinal action.
Zach Haynes finished with 16 points, and Kaleb Coffman grabbed nine rebounds while equaling Bryce Reed with 11 points each as four Trojans reached double digits.
Potosi (9-10) snapped a 46-46 tie when Haynes rolled in a 3-pointer and Austin Wilson cashed in a steal near midcourt with an uncontested layup to begin the fourth quarter.
Jacobsen pushed the margin to 58-52 with two free throws. The Trojans earned a semifinal matchup against North County on Friday night, but not before averting a final threat.
Arcadia Valley (9-13) moved to within 59-58 on 3-point shots from Carter Brogan and Stephen Pursley, the last of which occurred with 10 seconds left in regulation.
Jacobsen padded the Potosi margin at the line, and the Trojans applied excellent pressure on the ball as a rushed launch by Logan Pannebecker missed from the left wing.
Brogan, whose fading dagger decided a Central Christmas Tournament clash, netted 19 points for the Tigers while Corbia Rea provided 12 points and six rebounds off the bench.
The contest was tied seven times within the first 13 minutes, and each team seemed to find its strongest offensive output during physical battles inside.
Reed converted a 3-point play on a second chance, and Coffman added a subsequent putback for the Trojans. But a tough follow by Rea enabled AV to gain a 12-10 advantage.
A 3-pointer by Jacobsen was answered inside by Rea at 23-23. Potosi then mounted an 8-0 run that was promptly countered when the Tigers scored seven in a row heading into halftime.
Coffman finished off a give-and-go bounce pass from Wilson for a 31-23 separation, but Arcadia Valley rebounded two missed free throws to generate a five-point closing possession.
Successive putbacks by Brogan and Rea brought the No. 7 seed within one, and the Tigers briefly took a 44-41 lead in the third quarter after Taylon Jones and Jacobsen traded driving layups.
Pursley posted eight points for AV.