MANLIUS — The Princeton Tigers had a minute to win it when play resumed Tuesday for their regional play-in game with arch-rival Hall.
The Red Devils carried over a 46-41 with 1 minute, 5 seconds remaining when the contest was suspended Monday by a power outage due to a sudden blizzard. While the Tigers were able to strike first Tuesday with a three-pointer by Cole Evenson to close within two points, the Red Devils finished what they started, defeating the Tigers 53-46.
It took nine minutes to play the final 1:05 of game clock, played in front of 21 fans on each side of the gym plus the PHS cheerleaders and the Bureau Valley basketball team, which just finished its practice.
“It was a weird situation. You come over and warm up. There’s a minute on the clock, 50 people in the stands maybe. Just an odd situation. Not something you want to go through, but really was the only option,” PHS coach Jesse Brandt said. “The whole atmosphere was weird for a regional game. Usually, after you lose, you’re in the heat of the moment, but the way the whole situation worked out, you’re just different at the end of the game. Just a weird deal.”
“I’ve coached on a football team that won a state championship and coached on a basketball team that got fourth in state. That was the most nerve-wrecking minute and five seconds of my life,” Hall coach Mike Filippini said. “That was a really tough spot for both teams, and luckily we did enough things at the end.”
Hall’s Danny Nolasco returned to the free-throw line where he was about 21 hours earlier when play was finally halted Monday after minutes of delays from flickering lights and insufficient lighting. Filippini joked that Nolasco would spend the day shooting free throws and in fact, made 14 straight attempts at Red Devil Gymnasium. He was, however, unable to carry that hot streak at the Storm Cellar, missing his charity toss.
“That was a really tough spot to be in when you got to think about that the entire day,” Filippini said,
The Tigers got the best-case scenario when Evenson drained a 25-footer for three points to make it 46-44.
Hall’s Erik Fuentes and Princeton’s Josh Kieffer exchanged a pair of free throws to maintain a two-point game at 48-46 with 43 seconds left. The Tigers would not score again, with Brett Fanning sinking 4 of 4 free-throw attempts and Ian Trevier made 1 of 2 attempts to lift the Red Devils into Wednesday’s semifinals against top-seeded Seneca. Fanning led the Red Devils with 29 points, his first set of free throws Tuesday, pushing him pass Rollie Himes as the No. 2 all-time scorer in Red Devil history.
The Tigers, who finished the season at 6-22, were led by Evenson (12 points) and Austen Stewart (11).
Fans driving to Monday’s game got a surprise when they were blinded by a blizzard that suddenly blew through north-central Illinois. While lights flickered throughout the school during the pregame, there was no further problems until late in the fourth quarter.
Initially, gym lights began to flicker in a sequence that was more suitable for disco than basketball. While BV officials were able to turn off the bank of flickering lights on each side of the gym, the game officials deemed there was insufficient lighting court side to proceed safely and fairly.
While both coaches agreed to play out the game in the conditions they had, they said the officials ultimately made the right call. Hall’s end of the gym was noticeably darker with two sets of lights not powering up.
“They were erring on the side of caution. It made sense,” Brandt said. “If the lights were flashing I didn’t want to play. I’d feel real bad if Hall missed one of their free throws down the stretch because it was dark at their end. We had decent lights on our end, but nobody wants to win or lose in that fashion.”
The power momentarily went off completely with 2:39 remaining in the game with Evenson preparing to shoot a second free throw. From there, the lights began to flicker on and off.
Evenson joked they were trying to “ice me.”
After a 10-minute delay, Evenson made his free throw to pull PHS within 41-39. Seven seconds later, between free-throw attempts by Hall’s Erik Fuentes, the power flickered once again. After another delay, Fuentes completed his second free throw to lift Hall to a 43-38 lead.
Fanning made 1 of 2 free throws before Stewart scored on a putback for the Tigers to make it 44-41. PHS called a timeout and Hall set up a home run inbounds play from Fanning to Matt Boucher, whose layup gave Hall a 46-41 lead.
With 1:05 on the block, Nolasco was fouled and missed his first free-throw attempt. He never got a chance for his second. The game officials said they would wait until 9:30 p.m. (15 minutes) to suspend the game, getting approval from the IHSA office. Filippini said Monday it’s pretty much typical how the season has gone for the Red Devils.
“I told Cody ((Hall assistant Burroughs) that we’ve gone through pretty much everything this year with different kids quitting and weird scenarios, and this pretty much tops it off,” Filippini said.
Notes: Following the conclusion of play Tuesday, Filippini called in an order for Buffalo Wild Wings and was going to have his team over to his house to watch film on Seneca. he also planned a walk-through Wednesday after school. Brandt had similar plans for the Tigers had they won Tuesday.