If Lindbergh coach Jason Wolfard had a chance to do things over again, he likely would have called a timeout with his club holding the ball with 20 seconds left and the score tied against Kirkwood.
The teams played on Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the loser's bracket of the Meramec Holiday Festival Tournament.
Instead of setting up for the last shot, Wolfard called out a play from the sidelines and decided to trust his players in the final seconds. But the plan backfired when the ball slipped through the hands of senior forward Charley Mueller and into the hands of a Kirkwood defender with just 13 seconds left.
Kirkwood guard Justin Byrd then drove the lane, got fouled, and made both free throws with 6.8 seconds left. The Flyers missed a shot as time expired and Kirkwood escaped with a 51-49 victory in a thriller at Meramec.
"When you look back, it was probably my fault," Wolfard said. "We should have called a timeout and made sure we took the last shot no matter what. We had the play we wanted. We had the look we wanted. It just went through our hands and they got it, and we put them on the free-throw line at the other end and they hit free throws when they needed to."
Neither team led by more than four points the entire game, as a back-and-forth battle between the two longtime rivals continued until the final buzzer. Lindbergh (5-3) trailed by one at halftime and by three at the end of the third quarter before using a 7-0 run to take a 40-36 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Kirkwood took a 47-43 lead with 2:14 remaining on a pair of free throws by Clark Randall. Mueller followed with a free throw and senior center Jared Haenni made a layup to cut the Kirkwood lead to one at 47-46 with 1:45 to play.
Mueller is the Flyers' leading scorer at 16 points per game this season.
Pioneers guard Stefan Moore opened the door for Lindbergh, missing both free throws with just over a minute to play. Lindbergh junior guard Blake Welch hit one of two free throws to tie the game at 47 with 55.6 seconds, before a Kirkwood turnover led to two free throws by the 6-foot-6 Haenni, which put the Flyers up 49-47.
Byrd hit two free throws to tie the game with 27.6 seconds left, before Wolfard elected not to call timeout and set up a play. The Flyers intended to get the ball to Mueller, who had a game-high 17 points, but the ball fell out of his hands and Kirkwood then won the game at the foul line.
"There were so many changes of emotion in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter," said Kirkwood coach Bill Gunn."I'm just happy with our kids that, no matter what, we still played through it and got stops when we needed to. And we hit free throws when we needed to."
On the last play that led to Byrd's free throws, Gunn said, "You just want to go hard to the basket and hopefully you either get a good shot or you get to the free-throw line. I thought our kids got stops when we had to and then he hit those big free throws."
Randall hit four 3-pointers and had a team-high 15 points for Kirkwood, which got at least five points from six different players.
Lindbergh is off until they play at Marquette next Thursday.
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