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Monday, Oct. 5, 2015

Cats win showdown with Liberty

Thursday, February 26, 2009

HIGH-RISER: Justin Shipp drills a jumper against the Liberty Eagles. Photo/Mullins
As should be expected, the battle for supremacy between the top two teams in South Central Association play went down to the wire Feb. 17 at the Eagles' Nest on the campus of Mountain View/Birch Tree High School.

And when the smoke cleared, it was the Thayer Bobcats that were left standing with a tough 65-64 overtime win over the Liberty Eagles.

Coming into the contest, the Bobcats and Eagles were the only two squads unbeaten in SCA play. They were also the only two SCA squads holding down spots in the state's top 10. Liberty (19-2, 6-1) checked in at number nine in Class 3, while Thayer was ranked ninth in Class 2.

Justin Shipp turned in a magnificent performance for Thayer (19-3, 7-0), scoring a game-high 36 points in the game. Shipp also hit the shot that sent the game into overtime, as the Cats rallied from a nine-point deficit in the fourth period.

Liberty was on top 59-58 with 40 seconds left in regulation, when a case of shaky free throw shooting undermined the Eagles' chances at putting the game on ice.

The Eagles went just one-for-three from the charity stripe, keeping hope alive for Thayer.

And with eight ticks left on the clock, Shipp cut through the lane and hit a dipsy-doo layup that knotted the contest at 60-all.

Liberty had the last shot, but it would not go down and the game went into an extra frame.

Lance Schneider (15 points) hit the first bucket of overtime to give Thayer a lead that it would hold onto.

A free throw from Liberty's James Chambers (19 points) edged the Eagles within one, 65-64 with 1:07 left. The next trip down the floor, Thayer threw the ball away giving possession back to the Eagles. But the Eagles, too, were feeling charitable and gave the ball back to Thayer on a traveling violation with 35 seconds left in OT.

But the game was not quite over yet.

Thayer missed a big opportunity to seal the deal by missing two straight free throws, setting up a thrilling finish.

After calling timeout with 12 seconds remaining on the clock, the Eagles drove the ball all the way to the baseline, but the Bobcats managed to punch the ball loose and it rolled out of bounds at half-court as the buzzer sounded, leaving Thayer with a hard-fought 65-64 victory over Liberty.

The way they game started, it was hard to imagine an overtime period would be needed to determine the outcome.

The Cats opened the game on fire, jumping in front 12-0.

On Liberty's first three touches of the game, Thayer racked up a pair of steals and a blocked shot to sprint to a big lead.

And everybody got in on the action for Thayer.

Shipp hit a layup. Ryan Veatch (seven points) scored five straight points. Luke Martin (five points) tossed in a baseline jumper and Schneider drilled a 3-ball to push Thayer in front 12-0.

The Eagles fought and sharp-shooting Derek Daniels (20 points) drilled a pair of treys for Liberty in the first period. But he also picked up a couple of quick fouls and was forced to sit on the bench until the third period.

Jacob Eckman hit a shot in the lane and Shipp capped the first period with back-to-back hoops, including a triple, to push Thayer on top 21-14 after one.

Liberty did not fold, however.

The Eagles outscored Thayer 12-8 in the second period to pull within three, 29-26, at intermission. Shipp had six of his team's eight points in the second.

Then early in the third, Daniels made his way back into the game and helped give the Eagles their first lead of the night.

He scored Liberty's first two hoops of the third and Chambers added a trey to give the Eagles a quick 33-29 advantage.

With 51 ticks left in the third, Daniels nailed a 3-pointer to start a period-ending 8-0 run for Liberty. Chambers capped the run with a steal near half-court that he turned into a layup at the buzzer, giving the Eagles a huge shot of momentum, and a big 48-39 lead after three.

Refusing to be swayed, the Cats kept fighting early in the fourth.

Shipp hit a trey and Schneider drilled another and was also fouled on the shot. He hit his free throw to notch a rare-four point play and pull Thayer with three, 51-48.

Veatch had a big putback with 3:06 left that edged Thayer within 55-54 and Shipp finally pulled the Cats even at 57-all with his third 3-pointer of the game with 2:15 left in the fourth.

That saw desire that saw Thayer erase a nine-point lead in the fourth was also present in the overtime, with the Bobcats outscoring the Eagles 5-4 in the four-minute period to cap a big-time rally with a 65-64 win.

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