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As the game was seemingly slipping away from Waubonsie Valley, the way Jared Brownridge began attacking the hoop he looked plumb mad.
"I was just mad like, 'Man, I want to get back in this game, I want to win this game so bad.' Because we had lost the first game in the first round of the regionals the last three years I've been here, and I didn't want it to happen again," he said.
It didn't. As Warriors coach Steve Weemer said, "We got the monkey off our back" with a 51-48 overtime win over rival Metea Valley on Wednesday in a Class 4A Oswego East regional semifinal. The Warriors advance to Friday's regional final against No. 3 seed Neuqua Valley.
Brownridge scored 27 points, and he and Bryan Jefferson combined for all of the No. 6 seeded Warriors' 7 overtime points. A steal and outlet pass to the 6-foot-7 Jefferson for a two-handed dunk with 1:22 left in overtime put Waubonsie up for good, 48-46, though Metea's Connor Archey had a decent look on a 30-foot 3-pointer at the very end.
"Our defense was bad all game, and that play really showed that we turned it up on defense," Jefferson of the steal-dunk combo.
"Gary (Sutton) got the ball to Jared and he looked at me. That really made me release some stress because I was playing bad all game. So when I got that I knew that we were going to be fine."
Things looked fine in the third quarter for No. 11 Metea Valley (19-10), negating a 30-24 halftime deficit with a 9-0 run to gain its first lead since 2-0. Waubonsie (21-7) woke up with a 9-2 spurt to enter the fourth quarter leading 39-35.
"We held them scoreless, and then Brownridge, it was almost like he could sense he needed to do something. He got a couple where he just kind of put his head down, went to the basket, got himself going to the line and hit some shots," said Metea coach Bob Vozza, who in his first playoff game against Waubonsie saw the Mustangs' series record slip to 3-4.
Metea Valley led 42-41 at 6:17 of the fourth quarter on a baseline jumper by 6-10 Hayden Barnard, who scored a team-high 13 points with 11 rebounds to pace a landslide 38-22 Metea margin in that category. Trouble was, the Mustangs made only 9 of 23 free throws.
"Tightness, a little bit," Vozza said.
With 12 seconds left in regulation, Barnard converted his eighth offensive rebound for a basket to tie, 44-44. Bryson Oliver then stole the ball for Metea, but as he dribbled in for a would-be game-winning layup Sutton scrambled to tie him up and steal it back.
"We had the game in our hands in the fourth quarter, I think, but it came down to free throws. We couldn't knock them down," said Metea senior guard Trayvond Taylor, who alternated with Derek Coleman and Marquell Oliver to try to contain Brownridge. "You win some, you lose some. We left it on the floor, so that's all you can do. They just outplayed us today."