IRONTON – Once the basketball found the hands of Andrew Starkey in the closing seconds, the game was all his to decide. The Fredericktown junior guard delivered again.
Starkey elevated between two West County defenders, and connected on a go-ahead 3-pointer with about 3 seconds remaining to complete an almost unfathomable comeback.
Fredericktown rallied from 15 points down on Wednesday night after being outworked earlier by the Bulldogs, and clinched its first appearance in the Arcadia Valley Thanksgiving Tournament title game.
Starkey netted a game-high 23 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and handed the Blackcats their lone lead with his final shot for a 48-47 semifinal victory.
Riley Fraire provided 11 points, seven blocks and six rebounds for Fredericktown (2-0), which advanced to face top seed South Iron for the championship on Thursday.
West County (1-1) carried possession and a six-point lead with 58 seconds left, but suffered three empty trips to the line in one-and-one situations.
Starkey brought the Blackcats closer with two free throws, then zipped a diagonal entry pass toward Cohlbe Dunnahoo for a layup to make it 47-45 with 14.3 seconds left.
People are also reading…
After committing one last foul, Fredericktown controlled the missed free throw. Starkey dribbled from the left side before stopping about six feet beyond the right elbow, and set off a wild celebration.
It wasn’t his first heroic dagger while participating in the 95-year event. Starkey swished a 3-pointer as time expired last year against Arcadia Valley in the consolation bracket.
The frantic finish overshadowed two earlier buzzer beaters by Bulldogs freshman Ty Harlow, who paced his second-seeded squad with 10 points and four assists.
Harlow drained a floating 13-footer for a 25-18 halftime lead, then made a sideline steal out of a trap and drilled a leaning 3-pointer for a seemingly safe 40-27 advantage ending the third quarter.
Fredericktown was beaten to numerous obtainable rebounds, and looked flustered by the relentless hustle of West County until rallying late.
The Bulldogs restored a 44-31 cushion when freshman Jaxon Campbell finished an inbounds play with 5:28 to play, but were outscored 17-3 over the remainder of the game.
Starkey struck from the right corner, and Fraire hit a fast-break layup to bring the Blackcats within single digits. They answered a 3-point play by Mason Simily at 47-40 to resume the comeback.
West County created its largest lead at 37-22 on a transition layup by Simily after fellow senior Jase Campbell turned two steals into layups earlier in the third quarter.
Jaxon Campbell had eight points, and broke away for a layup and early 12-4 edge after Carter Reed knocked down a 3-pointer off the bench.
The Bulldogs successfully guarded from corner to corner, reducing valuable space for Starkey and the Fredericktown perimeter shooters, and deflected entry passes with regularity as a result
Matthew Manzel opened the second quarter with a putback 3-point play for a 19-10 lead, and equaled Blackcats guard Mark Heine with four steals.
Fredericktown narrowed the gap to five before halftime. Lane Sikes sank a baseline jumper when Matthew Starkey rebounded a miss, then assisted Fraire on a layup.
South Iron 64, Arcadia Valley 33
IRONTON – The reigning Class 1 state champions endured a subpar shooting performance, and still managed to invoke another running clock on Wednesday night.
D.J. Prater shined with 20 points and 14 rebounds after resting an injury in the opening round, and South Iron prevailed 64-33 over the host club at the Arcadia Valley Thanksgiving Tournament.
Drenin Dinkins compiled 16 points, seven rebounds and six steals after dropping 34 points during an lopsided triumph over Bismarck on Monday.
The Panthers got nine points and four steals from Martez Burse, and advanced to face Fredericktown on Thursday in pursuit of their fourth straight tourney title.
Junior forward Jackson Dement produced 11 points and nine rebounds for Arcadia Valley (1-1), which could not overcome a flat 1-for-10 start from the field.
Jasper Inman added 10 points and sank a baseline jumper after Dement knocked down two hooks in the lane, and an 8-0 spurt prompted a South Iron timeout.
The Panthers then extended their 37-19 lead behind renewed defensive pressure. Dinkins prompted the momentum shift with a sideline steal and sprinting layup.
Prater elevated in traffic to score following a loose-ball scramble, and added a transition finish in the closing seconds of the third quarter to make it 50-27.
His strong second half continued with four field goals in the final stanza, including an offensive rebound and putback through contact for a 59-24 margin with 5:48 to play.
South Iron dominated the first quarter for a 22-3 advantage after Kolton Dinkins sank two 3-pointers and Drenin Dinkins added another.
The scoring pace slowed after the all-state guard missed some time to stop bleeding after receiving an elbow to the mouth on a rebounding battle.
Drenin Dinkins returned to action before intermission, and Prater curled a nifty baseline layup around the opposite side of the rim to help establish a 30-5 lead.
Colin Whited had six points and seven rebounds as AV slipped into a third-place encounter with conference rival West County.
Ellington 63, Bismarck 29
IRONTON – Ellington forced 17 turnovers during the first half, and outran Bismarck 63-29 to stay alive in the Thanksgiving Tournament consolation bracket on Wednesday.
Aiden Anderson was a perfect 5-of-5 from 3-point range while scoring 19 of his game-high 21 points before halftime for the Whippets (1-1).
Colby Hedrick added 14 points, and sank 7-of-8 free throws while post player Brett Gore chipped in 11 points with seven rebounds toward the win.
Although the teams combined for 15 miscues in the first quarter, Ellington jumped ahead 9-0 after Anderson connected on his first perimeter look.
Jesse Mack netted an aggressive layup and corner triple before halftime, and had six points overall to pace Bismarck (0-2). Gavin Butery made four steals, and Tanner Martinez grabbed eight rebounds.
The Indians trailed 42-17 at the break, and further faltered offensively by going 0-of-8 from the field and only 3-of-10 at the free-throw line in the third quarter.
Hedrick opened the stanza with two quick baskets, creating the second on a steal, and buried an open 3-pointer for a 52-20 cushion.
Bismarck outscored Ellington 9-7 in the final period on field goals from Daven Miller, Ethan Dugal and Carter Hedrick. Trevor Politte chipped in three steals.