The loudest ovation in Warren's gym soon gave way to a louder one, complete with the hero being mobbed after the buzzer by his teammates.
Sorry, Robert Knar.
Aarias Austin stole the heroics Saturday night.
Austin's pullup 3-pointer to beat the buzzer gave Warren a 63-60 win over Mundelein in a North Suburban Conference Lake Division thriller, spoiling the shocking season debut of Knar.
While Mundelein (12-9, 5-3) saw its four-game winning streak snapped, the win was the perfect pick-me-up for Warren (12-9, 4-5), which four nights earlier suffered an embarrassing, 32-point loss to Stevenson.
"I'm proud of our team," coach Ryan Webber said after his Blue Devils avenged a 67-56 loss at Mundelein on Dec. 8. "We had to look at ourselves in the mirror the last couple of days. Tuesday (the loss to Stevenson) taught us a lot. We grew up a lot. We challenged them to play with pride."
The Blue Devils, particularly Adrian Deere, who scored a season-high 25 points, and Austin, who finished with 22 points, relished the challenged. After a timeout with 6.4 seconds left, Austin took the inbounds pass under the Warren basket from Arthell Rosquist, beat his defender up the court, stopped and popped with a hand in his face. His shot from the right wing hit nothing but net.
"I just said, 'Give me the ball," said Austin, whose teammates spilled onto the court after his winner. "During the timeout, my whole team said, 'This is your time.' "
With 14.6 seconds and the score tied 60-60, it was Knar's time.
"It was cool," Knar said of playing his first varsity game since scoring 32 points in last season's sectional final loss to Warren. "I was kind of on Cloud Nine."
Just six months removed from reconstructive surgery on his left knee, the senior guard surprised the gym when he took off his warm-up T-shirt and checked into the game. He had started practicing with the team in recent weeks but had not been participating in contact drills.
"I was looking at (two assistant coaches on the bench), and they said, 'You can hit that shot (from the corner), for sure,' " Knar said. "I said, 'Yeah, but I don't think I'm in the (official score) book. Then my dad (Mustangs head coach Dick Knar) says, 'Can you hit the game-winner?' I was like, 'Yeah.' I was in shock."
With Mundelein in possession of the basketball, Sean O'Brien (19 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks) dribbled between the circles. Knar got himself free in the left corner, guarded by Deere as Warren went to a man-to-man defense. But O'Brien fed Chino Ebube (16 points, 2 dunks) near the basket. Ebube missed the layup attempt but was fouled by James Betori.
"I told James, 'Good foul,' " Austin said.
Knar then checked out, after playing 4.2 seconds.
"He was open," Dick Knar said of his son. "I thought Sean was going to pass it to him. But he made the right pass. I'll take Chino at the rim all day."
Ebube missed both free throws, however, setting the stage for Austin's heroics.
Even though Robert Knar didn't touch the ball, Austin knew the Northern Iowa recruit had to be accounted for on the floor.
"You got to know where Robbie Knar is on the court," Austin said. "He doesn't need any room at all to shoot. You can be in his face. Whether he's coming off an injury or not, you got to respect him. He's a great player."
After not starting the Stevenson game and scoring only 1 point, Deere was great against Mundelein. The junior forward sank two of his three 3-pointers and scored 10 points in the opening quarter. He sank 3 baskets in the fourth and finished 10-of-15 shooting.
"He was a ton," Webber said. "He was just aggressive. He didn't think about things. He took it upon himself to just get it and score it. He had a look in his eyes. He had a mean streak in him."
Mundelein junior guard Nate Williams provided a spark coming off the bench, scoring 12 points and hitting a 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer to give the Mustangs a 33-30 advantage. Quinn Pokora's 9 points came on three 3s.
"(Warren) deserves all the credit," Dick Knar said. "They played with all the energy and dictated. And Deere did a great job. He was hot."