Those in attendance for the championship game of the 44th annual Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York High School saw just how quickly fate can intervene in an important game.
Both defending tournament champion Conant and Brother Rice saw a swift and complete reversal over the final 15 seconds of what turned out to be a 40-minute instant classic.
Conant won 54-53 in double overtime Saturday night in Elmhurst.
It was the kind of finish that had the packed Campbell Gym crowd for those riveting final moments, during which:
• A Marquise Kennedy reverse layup gave the Crusaders their first lead since the midway point of the third quarter at 53-52 with seven seconds left. Kennedy's score came from a Brendan Coghlan steal a few seconds earlier.
• Conant's subsequent possession saw Jonathan Kolev haul in a cross-court Joe Arriaga pass and immediately drain a 15-footer from left of the basket with 2.3 seconds left for the winning bucket.
• The Cougars then withstood a desperation half-court 3-point attempt as the horn sounded.
"Jon stepped up at the right moment for us," Conant coach Jim Maley said of the 6-5 junior forward. "He's really a very good shooter whose shot just wasn't going down. The one thing that I started seeing was him gaining the confidence to take that shot, which feels great from a coaching standpoint."
Kolev, who went 3-for-3 from the field and 2-of-2 at the foul line for 10 points, said his game-winning shot came down to a matter of necessity.
"They scored and took the lead," he said. "I knew time was running down and as soon as I got Joe's pass, I shot it right away and fortunately it went in."
What made the win even more interesting as that the Cougars pulled it out as their two senior veterans, 6-foot-9 Ryan Davis and 6-4 Ben Schols, battled foul trouble throughout the contest. Both earned all-tournament selections, and Davis (15 rebounds) was named MVP.
Schols drew his first two fouls over the game's first six minutes. His third personal foul came on an apparent reversal of a charging call with 4:44 left in the first half. Schols, who ended up with 5 points on the night, played the last 6:41 of regulation with 4 fouls.
Davis drew his fourth foul less than a minute after Schols' return, and Brother Rice (10-6) went on a 10-4 run that wiped out an 8-point Conant lead.
Davis scored 13 of his game-high 31 points during the third quarter.
The Cougars took a 44-40 lead with 3:39 left only to see four of Kennedy's team-high 18 points tie the game at 44 with 1:42 remaining in regulation. Conant gained a reprieve in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter as Brother Rice lost track of the clock and failed to get off a shot at the buzzer.
Davis was forced into the role of cheerleader when he drew his fifth foul batting Rice's Josh Boulanger (13 points) for a rebound with 1:50 to play in the first overtime.
He remained confident as he cheered his teammates on the floor.
"I have complete confidence in my guys," Davis said. "We knew coming in how tough Brother Rice plays. Playing five games in five days can be a grind. But having been through this last year helped us get past it."
After a Schols miss at the end of the first OT, Conant (11-4) built a 52-49 advantage by hitting 3 of 4 fould shots to set the table for the game's final act.
For Davis and his teammates, there will be little time to rest on their laurels, as a return to Mid-Suburban West play at Barrington on Friday is on the agenda.
Five of the six previous Cougar squads to bring back Tosh titles ended up winning at least a regional title.
"It's something that you can really build on," Davis said. "This tournament leaves you battle-tested through some tough, hard competition."