PARK HILLS – Festus senior Daniel Portell dropped to a knee to gather his emotions after drilling a game-winning corner 3-pointer at the buzzer that spoiled the Central boys basketball season opener on Friday evening.
Owen Horsley received the inbounds pass in full stride on the opposite end of the court with 6.7 seconds to play, and hurried up the floor to find Portell open directly in front of fisitors' bench.
Portell released the shot over Breven McMullen after cutting around a double screen, and his sixth 3-pointer fell through to seal a 54-53 victory and excite the visiting crowd.
Portell displayed a proficient jump shot to lead all players with 24 points plus five rebounds for Festus (1-0). The Tigers finished with nine made 3-pointers, while Central (0-1) converted just four.
Wade Scherffius produced 15 of his team high 22 points for Central during a tight-contested second half.
Central held a slight advantage in the early part of the fourth quarter despite having three layups nullified by traveling violations.
Festus briefly moved in front, but Brent Wagner received an entry pass from McMullen for an easy layup that squared the score at 51-51 with 1:48 to play.
The game remained tied after Holden Mayberry missed a heavily contested shot in the post, and The Tigers gained possession with less than a minute remaining. '
However, Portell committed a back-court violation with 16 seconds on the clock while trying to hold for the final shot under suffocating pressure from Will Hopkins.
Scherffius dribbled around a solid screen at the top of the key, and drove in for a nearly uncontested layup to capture a 53-51 lead on the Rebels' last possession.
Central held a 29-26 edge at the break behind an energetic defensive boost by Keandre Mesa in the last three minutes.
Wagner drained a 3-pointer 13 seconds into the third quarter, then Scherffius dropped in back to back layups for a 36-27 lead.
Central concentrated on perimeter defense to help widen its lead, but the Festus shooters eventually popped open off screens, and recaptured a 40-38 advantage with the second 3-pointer by Kobe Branscomb.
Each side ran an efficient offense, and exchanged the lead four times during the last three minutes of the third quarter. Scherffius notched the final seven Central points during the third, and earned a 45-43 advantage heading into the final period by weaving through traffic to convert a layup.
The Rebels fell behind early due to the strong outside attack by Festus, so they looked to score in the post to remain close.
The Tigers held a 16-14 edge at the end of the first quarter after Holden Mayberry split a pair of free throws with seven seconds on the clock.
Wagner, who recorded 18 points plus six rebounds, sank the first shot from behind the arc for the Rebels to shrink the deficit to 20-19 with 6:25 remaining in second quarter.
Scherffius forced a turnover one minute later, and nailed his lone 3-pointer in transition for a 22-22 tie.
Savez Thomas finished with nine points for Festus, while Branscomb tallied eight points with six rebounds.