SOMONAUK – When Newark’s desperation 3-point attempt on its final possession of regulation fell short, everybody in Somonauk’s gym thought the game was over and Indian Creek had won.
If Newark senior Brett Anderson’s 3 had hit any part of the rim, the game would’ve been over. If his shot had caught a piece of the backboard, the game would’ve been finished. Instead, it found all air, falling graciously into the hands of teammate Jack Clausel, who immediately tossed it up off the glass for a layup, tying the score just before the buzzer sounded.
But despite Newark’s fourth-quarter heroics, Indian Creek rallied in the extra period as center Garrison Govig hit one of two free throws with 9.6 seconds left to give the Timberwolves an exhilarating 58-57 victory in the Little Ten conference tournament semifinals.
Indian Creek advances to today’s 8 p.m. championship game against Hinckley-Big Rock, which defeated Paw Paw, 58-47, in Thursday’s first semifinal.
“It was heart-breaking, obviously, but we just had to stay tough and keep rolling with the punches,” Govig said. “We knew we could do it. We knew once we got into overtime, ... it was tip ball again.”
Indian Creek (13-8) seemed to have the game wrapped up in the fourth quarter after Kyle Lieving found Govig on a feed inside to give the Timberwolves a 39-31 lead with less than five minutes to play.
Govig had a team-high 27 points on 12-for-19 shooting, including a string of seven consecutive makes between the first and third quarters.
“He can put the ball in the basket and he’s so big that he has the ability to do that,” Indian Creek coach Joe Piekarz said. “Credit our guards for finding him because that’s a big part of it.”
But Newark rallied, carried by Anderson, who scored a game-high 35 points in the loss, including 25 in the second half.
After Jaron Todd hit one of two free throws to give Indian Creek a 50-46 lead with 23.9 seconds remaining, Anderson scored a three-point play on the other end to cut the deficit to one. Newark immediately fouled Lieving, who made one of two at the line, leading to Clausel’s last-second layup.
Indian Creek wasn’t fazed in overtime. A put-back bucket by Govig put Indian Creek up one with 45 seconds left before Clausel split a pair of free throws on the other end. The Timberwolves called timeout with 16 seconds remaining before, once again, getting the ball inside to Govig.
“I thought we grew up a little bit tonight,” Piekarz said. “We’ve been in these situations before and we haven’t come out on top. It can really deflate you, but we did an outstanding job.”
Indian Creek lost to H-BR on the road in early January, but the Timberwolves have been yearning for a rematch with the Royals and a chance to win the school’s first conference tournament title since 1991.
“We’re pumped. We’re ready to go for [today],” Govig said. “That’s been our ultimate goal, to get back into it. We had a tough nail-biter against them and we feel like on a neutral court anything can happen. We’re going to be ready to go.”