Hoffman Estates senior Jordan Robinson had a stunned smile as he clutched the ball just after the buzzer sounded Wednesday night in the seventh annual Crystal Lake Central Coaches vs. Cancer Thanksgiving Tournament.
Just seconds earlier, Huntley ran a three-quarter court inbound play to set up a wide-open layup that would have forced overtime. But the ball rimmed off into Robinson's hands and Hoffman had its biggest victory in recent years with a 56-54 upset at the CL Central Fieldhouse.
"I was in awe," sophomore guard Jorden Thornton said of watching Hoffman survive a defensive miscommunication on the final play.
"This helps us out a lot," said Robinson, whose offseason work is paying dividends after playing limited varsity minutes as a junior. "Coach (Luke Yanule) has been preaching to us to play our style and don't worry about last year. The wins will come with the standards we've set."
Thornton (17 points) and Robinson (15 points) combined to score 20 of the Hawks' (1-1) final 22 points as they rallied from a 34-26 deficit. Senior Trevor Pye (11 points) also hit a pair of big 3s to start the second half and help them overcome 6-foot-8 Huntley (0-2) senior and Belmont University signee Amanze Egekeze (26 points on 10-for-15 shooting, 8 rebounds).
"We talked a lot (after Monday's 58-46 loss to Prairie Ridge) that we will not play the victim," Yanule said of a team coming off a 4-21 season. "Huntley is a fantastic program and that's the attitude we need with the youth of some of our guys and the seniors who are sick of losing. This is a huge step for us."
Egekeze scored 14 points as Huntley led 28-21 at halftime. He also picked up 3 fouls so that led coach Marty Manning -- along with Hoffman's dribble penetration and missing its only 2 first-half attempts behind the arc -- to abandon its man-to-man defense for a rarely-used 2-3 zone.
Pye hit two 3s and Thornton hit three in span of just more than six minutes for a 40-34 lead with 7:32 left.
"Our guards didn't really defend well ... and in the third quarter we had a bunch of close shots we need to convert that we didn't make," Manning said. "We're looking for somebody on the perimeter to step up defensively. We're still trying to find out who can give us some toughness defensively and buckle down and give us stops when we need them."
And the biggest change to get Hoffman back in it was a simple one.
"'Sully' (assistant coach Jim Sullivan) always says effort is the first adjustment," Yanule said.
"The first half we came out flat and were low on energy," Thornton said. "Coach told us to pick up our energy on the defensive end because it starts on 'D.'"
Egekeze's rebound basket and layup off Jason Shields' baseline drive and dish put Huntley up 49-46 with 3:44 left. Robinson then hit drive at 3:23 and a 17-footer at 1:32 and his rebound led to Thornton's drive at 0:54 for a 52-49 lead.
"Coach really wants me to step up big this year," said Robinson, who also hit 3 of 4 free throws in the final 28 seconds. "I'm trying to do things within the offense and be a captain of the team and a leader."
Egekeze's third 3 was a 25-footer to get Huntley within 55-54 with 7.8 seconds left. Thornton hit the first free throw in a 1-and-1 situation but Egekeze rebounded the miss and called time with 4.4 seconds left.
Egekeze got the inbound pass on the run and found Riley Wicks under the basket. But Wicks, playing with an injured right hand that was taped up, couldn't convert his shot off the glass.
"I told the guys that's not what lost us the game," Manning said.
"I felt we deserved to win that game," Robinson said with a smile.