The Batavia boys basketball team and visiting St. Charles East exchanged leads like investors trading bitcoin until Batavia's Kyle LeFevre and Jayden Johnson ended the volatility.
Following six ties and four-second half lead changes, Batavia prevailed 56-53 on Johnson's long 3-pointer at the buzzer, the result of a kick-out pass from LeFevre, whose drive was cut off by Saints senior Justin Hardy.
The play was somewhat improvised after Hardy missed a free throw at the other end with nine seconds left that would have given St. Charles East (9-6, 2-3 Upstate Eight River) a 1-point lead.
"We wanted to get Kyle going and get something going at the rim for him," Johnson said. "And if he didn't get to the rim, find someone on the wings to shoot the ball."
That someone happened to be Johnson, who entered the game shooting 40 percent from 3-point range (29 of 72). Time was running out as the 6-foot-5 sophomore guard caught Lefevre's pass 10 feet beyond the 3-point line in front of his own bench and launched a high-arcing shot over an oncoming defender.
Johnson's first buzzer-beater since eighth grade hit nothing but net. He was quickly consumed in a swarm of celebrating teammates and fans as the Bulldogs improved to 11-3 overall, 4-1 in the Upstate Eight River.
"Kyle was there on an island," Batavia coach Jim Nazos said, "and you know what? He drew about three defenders, got the ball to Jayden and got the look. I mean, it was a deep look, too, but got the look."
"That was pretty deep," Johnson said with a grin. "I couldn't tell you how far but that was pretty far."
The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle 29-21 and turned the ball over eight times. St. Charles East played well for the most part. The Saints limited their turnovers to 12 and put themselves in position to win with a late 6-0 run.
That late surge over the course of 95 seconds included transition buckets by senior guard Alec Champine and junior guard Nate Ortiz and 2 free throws from Hardy, who led all scorers with 21 points. Champine's bucket with 2:14 to play put the Saints ahead 49-47.
Johnson, who scored Batavia's final 8 points, answered with a 3-pointer but Ortiz knotted the game at 51-51 on a drive.
Johnson's subsequent drive with 30.8 seconds remaining staked the Bulldogs to a 53-51 lead. Hardy then scored on a strong move in the paint with nine seconds to go to knot it 53-53 but his missed free throw set the stage for LeFevre's pass to Johnson for the game-winner.
"After the game I congratulated coach Nazos because it was a really good game," St. Charles East coach Patrick Woods said. "It was a fun environment. I thought we played really well and I thought they played well. Just disappointing and tough to lose that. The little things, that's what I told the team after the loss. We missed a couple of layups and we missed a couple of free throws. All those things add up after a while."
Zach Robinson sank three 3-pointers as part of a 15-point effort and Ortiz finished with 8 points for the Saints, who host St. Charles North next Friday.
LeFevre scored 17 points, including four 3-pointers, and senior guard Riley Cooper scored 7 of his 10 points in the fourth quarter for Batavia, which plays at Plainfield South Saturday at 6 p.m.