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Bryson Oliver (left) of Metea Valley and Gary Sutton of Waubonsie Valley scramble for a loose ball as time runs out in regulation play with the score tied. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media ORG XMIT: firstname.lastname@example.org
After three first-round playoff losses, Waubonsie Valley senior guard Jared Brownridge wanted to make sure the Warriors got off square one this year.
The Santa Clara University recruit had a game-high 27 points that helped ensure they did just that, but it wasn’t without some tense moments. In fact, it was his assist to center Bryan Jefferson that gave the Warriors the lead for good in the final 80 seconds of overtime in their eventual 51-48 win against District 204 rival Metea Valley.
“I got moved up to varsity for the playoffs my freshman year, but losing that one didn’t mean as much to me as the last two,” said Brownridge. “That first one, I was a little kid getting to play with all the big kids. Coming into this one, I didn’t want to let that happen again my senior year.”
After the teams tied at 44 in regulation, Vin Patel took a nice no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass on the baseline from Sean Davis and dropped in a layup to give the Mustangs (19-10) a short-lived lead.
Brownridge, who had scored 12 points in the first quarter, answered with a putback with 2:18 remaining.
Gary Sutton then stripped the ball and it rolled out near halfcourt in the subsequent scramble before Brownridge came up with it.
“I hustled for the loose ball and I was gonna drive it and I saw with my peripheral vision, Bryan on the other side. Whenever I see Bryan, I know to throw it ahead to him and he finished strong and dunked it,” said Brownridge, who would add two free throws with 13.4 seconds remaining.
Jefferson made one of two sandwiched around a pair of Metea players going 2-for-4 from the line to account for the final margin. Conner Archey was able to launch a game-tying attempt from a couple steps inside halfcourt that beat the buzzer but was off the mark.
Waubonsie Valley (21-7) now moves on to meet another district rival Neuqua Valley (27-2), which topped host Oswego East 61-46 in the night’s opening semifinal.
Brownridge hit three three-pointers in the first quarter as the Warriors took a 20-11 lead.
“In the beginning, I wanted to come out shooting because my shot felt good [in warmups] so I kept letting it go,” Brownridge said. “But I knew, later on in the game, I was gonna have to start attacking because they were guarding me tight out on the perimeter.”
Waubonsie Valley led 30-24 at intermission but Metea Valley opened the third with a 9-0 run to take a 33-30 lead. It was 35-31 Mustangs on a Trayvond Taylor floater in the lane, but the Warriors closed with an 8-0 run and led 39-35 heading to the fourth, which became a taffy pull after Archey’s trey tied it at 39-all with 7:04 remaining.
Metea Valley, which got 13 points and 10 rebounds from 6-foot-9 Hayden Barnard, had a 36-22 advantage on the boards but made just 9-of-23 free throws.
“Brownridge started on fire and we got down,” said Metea Valley coach Bob Vozza. “I was proud of the way we responded. I thought from the end of the second quarter to the end of regulation, we defended the heck out of ‘em.
“Obviously, in a close game, you go back to us at the line. We missed a whole bunch, including some front ends [of one-and-one attempts]. It’s something you work on all year but in big situations, those things are magnified.”