A thrilling second-half comeback turned into a heartbreaking loss for Elgin on Friday night in a semifinal game against Harlan at the Elgin Holiday Tournament.
Down 16 at halftime, the Maroons battled back to take a 4-point lead with 35 seconds remaining, only to watch it slip away in a 66-65 loss. Elgin will play Glenbard North Saturday for third place.
The Maroons (5-7) took a 65-61 lead after senior Lavion Baldwin broke Harlan's trap to find Kiko Mari open for an easy layup with 35 seconds left. However, Harlan came right back and cut the lead to 65-64 when Jaylin Clemons nailed a 3-pointer with 24.9 seconds remaining.
After the Maroons missed the front end of a one-and-one, Clemons gave Harlan the lead for good when he drove to the basket for a lay-in with 15 seconds remaining. The Maroons dribbled the ball past half court on the ensuring possession before calling a timeout, and inbounded the ball with 1.9 seconds on the clock, but Donte Harper's shot from the corner was blocked.
"We were looking for someone to flash at the rim and we didn't get what we were looking for," said Elgin coach Mike Sitter. "We had to settle for a jumper."
Trailing 34-18 at the break, seniors Isaiah Butler and Ryan Sitter led the turnaround, scoring 11 points and 8 points, respectively, in the frame.
Sitter's 3-pointer with 3:20 left in the third tied the game at 38 and his putback at the end of the quarter gave the Maroons a 45-44 lead heading into the fourth. Elgin outscored Harlan 27-10 in the quarter.
"We realized we could play better than that. We've been in that position before where all it takes is a little spark," Ryan Sitter said. "Once we realized they shouldn't be dominating us like they were then we just kept taking it at them and finally momentum was on our side and when momentum is on our side, we're pretty dangerous."
Butler put on a show in the fourth, connecting on three straight baskets to begin the frame to give Elgin its largest lead of the game, 52-45, with 6 minutes remaining. Butler finished with a game-high 28 points, including 22 in the second half.
The Falcons (6-7) responded by going on a 6-0 run to cut Elgin's lead to 52-51 with 3 minutes remaining. The Maroons later went up 63-57 on a basket from Butler before Harlan began its final comeback.
"Our kids thought the game was over at halftime," said Harlan coach Ervin Bryant. "Our kids thought they would lay down. It's Elgin's tournament. They want to win this. I commend them. They did a great job of keeping their composure and they played hard."
Mari finished with 14 points for the Maroons, and Sitter added 12. Andre Hogan scored a team-high 23 points for Harlan.
Elgin was outrebounded 30-18 and allowed 7 second-chance points in the fourth.
"Every loose ball ended up in their hands and we couldn't get a clean rebound to save our lives," Mike Sitter said. "And that's too bad. I thought these kids earned a victory by coming back."