Junior guard Will Kmieciak set Westminster Christian's steals record this year, but he's never made a bigger one than he did with the game on the line at rival Harvest Christian Friday night.
With the score tied at 47 and Harvest holding for the last shot, Kmieciak stepped into the passing lane and intercepted a cross-court pass, taking the ball the other way for the game-winning layup in a 49-47 victory.
Kmieciak's clutch play broke the 10th tie of the back-and-forth game that also had 13 lead changes played in an electric atmosphere in a packed gym.
"It was a great high school game," Westminster coach Andy Zielenski said. "It was just a war. There weren't many leads more than 4 points. Back and forth. I didn't expect it to end that way."
Moments before Kmieciak's basket, the Warriors misfired on a chance at the lead. Harvest grabbed the rebound and called timeout.
The Lions were just past half-court when Kmieciak read the pass and made his big play, putting the Warriors up with 13.5 seconds to go.
Harvest had two final chances. The Lions were called for traveling with 4.4 seconds left but got another chance with :2.5 remaining when Westminster missed a free throw. Harvest called time, threw long and had Logan Jones open on the wing, but Kmieciak again was there to deflect the ball out of bounds.
When the clock hit zero, the Warriors student section stormed the court to celebrate.
"Steals have been a big part of my game this year," Kmieciak said. "I think God just gave me that one and gave me that time to shine and make that steal with my left hand. I just felt my instincts that I think I'm going to make that steal."
The win moves Westminster Christian (17-5, 8-1) into second place in the Northeastern Athletic Conference, ahead of Harvest Christian (14-7, 8-2) and behind only the No. 1 team in Class 1A, Aurora Christian.
Harvest took its biggest lead at 5-0 to start the game, Westminster's came at 42-36 late in the third quarter.
"It was a fun game to coach," Zielenski said. "It challenges a coach, challenges the kids. Puts them in situations we haven't been in this year and see how they respond. Chris King has been getting better every day and battled tonight. Ben (Versluys) made some big shots. Jordan (Warrener) hit a couple big 3s. It was just a team win."
Trailing 24-23 at halftime, King scored to start the second half and put the Warriors ahead, the first of 7 lead changes in the third quarter. Junior Jack Nohava caught fire for Harvest, scoring 8 straight points for his team.
Nohava gave the Lions their last lead at 36-35. Warrener drained a 3, then after Versluys blocked Nohava's shot, Warrener scored in transition before a Versluys basket made it a quick 7-0 run and a 42-36 lead.
The Lions battled back to tie the game at 43, 45 and 47 in the fourth quarter. Logan Jones drilled a 3 for the first tie, then Nohava hit 2 free throws and Jones made a pair for the final tie.
Each time Harvest pulled even, Westminster had the answer. The first two times came on Versluys buckets, the final one on Kmieciak's steal and layup.
"Their kid made a play, jumped a gap," Harvest coach Bryan Bradshaw said. "You tell the kids one turnover doesn't lose the game. There's a million things that happened earlier. You have to give them credit, they got after the loose balls, they gave themselves extra possessions."
Versluys led the Warriors with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and King and Warrener both scored 10 points.
Nohava topped both teams with 24 points and 12 rebounds, and Jones added 11 points.
"That's a pretty normal game for him (Nohava)," Bradshaw said. "He's done a nice job working on his game and he's a big piece of what we do. He played a good game and gave us a chance. You hate to lose close games but we'll learn from it and keep grinding."