With his team leading by a point with 8.1 seconds left in overtime Friday, St. Edward boys basketball coach P.J. White gave his players detailed instructions as to how to prevent visiting Chicago Christian from scoring the winning basket.
White told the Green Wave to deny the inbounds pass or at least make the Knights catch it in front of them. If that didn't work, he told them to sprint upcourt behind the Chicago Christian ballhandler and poke it away.
The Wave indeed denied the Knights' first attempt to trigger the ball inbounds, forcing a timeout. Chicago Christian's second attempt was successful, landing in the hands of 6-foot-2 Dylan Slager.
However, once Slager began dribbling up court, guarded closely by sophomore Nick Duffy, point guard Antonio Domel raced from behind and did just as his coach instructed. Domel tipped the ball free for his fifth steal of the night, recovered it and passed to teammate John Butzow.
Butzow was fouled with 2.7 seconds left, sank both free throws and the Wave fended off a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull out a 63-60 overtime victory in the Suburban Christian Gold.
"You could tell he wasn't the best dribbler, so you just had to run away with him and tip it loose," Domel said. "I just tipped it and deflected it as soon as I could and got rid of it."
"God bless him," an exasperated White said.
The win was the second straight for St. Edward (10-2, 3-1) and dropped Chicago Christian to 3-5, 0-2. Neither team led by more than 7 points in a game that featured 14 lead changes.
"It's crazy. I mean, last year we had 11 (wins) and we have 10 now," Domel said. "So that's pretty cool, before Christmas, too. These games are good for us because we're inexperienced. These kinds of games build you up and prepare you for the regional tournament."
Duffy put the Green Wave in position to win in overtime. He sandwiched a pair of inside baskets around a Devontae Elam runner in the lane to give St. Edward a 60-56 lead in the extra session. He led the Green Wave with 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
"Just move around in the middle, around the lane, working a little box or triangle in there," Duffy said of his efforts to get open against the 1-3-1 trapping defense the Knights played most of the night. "When someone catches in the middle, they turn and try to get it to me and I make a move."
Domel's fourth steal of the game late in the fourth quarter was just as critical to the victory as his fifth steal in overtime. The Wave trailed 53-54 with 39 seconds left in regulation after Corey Bulthuis scored 2 of his game-high 26 points on a drive down the lane that split Elam and 6-4 senior Adrian Ponce.
The Green Wave attempted to alley-oop the ball inside to Ponce, but the pass was tipped away by 6-2 forward Zack Bulthuis for a turnover with 15.3 seconds to play.
Domel then used every inch of his 5-7 frame to leap and steal the inbounds pass, hauling it down and calling timeout with 13.6 remaining. Domel then lobbed the ball underneath the basket to Ponce, who was fouled with 4.1 ticks showing. Ponce sank his first free throw but missed the second. The Knights didn't get a shot off in time and the game went to overtime.
Both teams struggled from the foul line throughout. St. Edward made 15 of 27 free throws; Chicago Christian made 11 of 20.
"I think the game wasn't won or lost on that last play," Chicago Christian coach Kevin Pittman said. "I thought we played well enough at times to win, but we played well enough at times to lose. Too many interior points again. Too many missed opportunities at the free throw line. Kind of the same things that we've been dealing with from the start, but we'll be back."
Three St. Edward starters besides Duffy finished in double figures. Ponce scored 12 points and grabbed 10 boards, Domel had 11 points, 5 steals and 3 assists and Elam added 11 points and 5 rebounds.