Sometimes a team loses a game. Other times it just runs out of time.
The latter was the case for Robinson High School's boys' basketball team Wednesday night.
Robinson battled tooth-and-nail with a solid Breese Central club for 32 minutes in the semifinals of the Class 2A Greenville Sectional, but in the end, the Maroons came up one possession short, resulting in a heartbreaking, 56-54 loss.
"This was a good high-school basketball game," RHS head coach Mack Thompson said. "At this point of the year, you expect all the games to be close and for the kids to battle for 32 minutes. The scoreboard said we lost, but it was more like we just ran out of time."
Things looked good for Robinson early, as a hot start saw the Maroons build an 11-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game. Aaron Siler got the ball rolling with a three-pointer from the top of the key 32 seconds into the game, then Derrick Nicholas added a layup a minute later to make the score 5-0. Another three-pointer by Siler pushed the RHS lead to 8-0 with 5:21 to play, then a three-pointer by Brayden Scott at the 4:10 mark completed the run.
Breese Central responded with six straight points over the next two minutes to get within five, but a deep three-pointer by Siler pushed the RHS lead to 14-6 with 1:13 left. A Breese Central basket made the score 14-8, but Michael Akande tipped in a miss by Cory Blount just before the buzzer to give the Maroons a 16-8 advantage at the end of the first period.
Robinson got the lead back to nine, 18-9, after a jumper by Scott with 6:09 to play, but the Maroons would not score again for almost four minutes.
During that span, Breese Central strung together eight straight points to close the gap to 18-17 with 2:38 left. Siler ended the Breese Central run with a three-pointer at the 2:21 mark to stretch the RHS lead to 21-17. After an offensive rebound of a missed free throw, Breese Central's Luke Jackson was fouled on a three-point attempt with 33.8 seconds left. Jackson would hit all three free throws to pull the Cougars to within one, then after Nicholas made on free throw for RHS with 23.5 seconds left, Kyler Scheer scored inside for Breese Central with 3.5 seconds left to send the game to halftime tied at 22-22.
"We started up 11-0, but I knew the game wouldn't end that way," Thompson said. "They fought back and it was back and forth after that."
Back and forth was exactly how the entire second half went. The final two quarters featured nine ties and six lead changes, with the biggest lead after halftime for either team being five points.
Robinson regained the lead at the outset of the third quarter on a hoop by Nicholas, but a layup by Breese Central's Justin Becker evened the score with 6:40 to play. Two free throws by Siler put the Maroons back on top, but Becker scored again to tie the game with 6:02 left. Another deep three-pointer by Siler gave Robinson a 29-26 lead with 5:23 to go, but Breese Central's Austin Rickhoff countered with a three-pointer of his own to once again tie the game with 4:55 remaining.
A fadeaway jumper from the top of the key by Siler gave Robinson a 31-29 lead with 4:38 left, but Breese Central scored the next five points to take a 34-31 lead with 3:41 remaining. Siler countered with a 25-footer and was fouled with 3:23 to play, but he missed the free throw that would have given the Maroons back the lead.
The teams would then trade baskets twice before yet another three-pointer by Siler from the right wing gave Robinson a 41-38 lead with 1:25 to go. A layup by Scheer closed the gap to 41-40 with 1:05 left, but Siler drained a fadeaway three-pointer from almost the same spot as his previous one at the buzzer to give the Maroons a 44-40 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Robinson appeared on the verge of pulling away after a dunk by Akande pushed the RHS lead to 48-43 with 6:04 to play, but Scheer responded for Breese Central with six consecutive free throws over a three-minute span to put the Cougars in front, 49-48, with 3:19 to go. Siler once again answered for the Maroons with a pull-up three-pointer from the top of the key, giving the Maroons a 51-49 lead with 3:08 left. Jacob Timmermann would score for Breese Central to tie the game with 2;32 left, then Becker turned a steal into a layup with 1:58 remaining to put Breese Central back in front, 53-51. A free throw by Scheer with 1:42 on the clock extended the lead to 54-51, but Siler buried a three-pointer from the left wing to tie the game once again, 54-54, with 1:22 left.
Breese Central elected to hold the ball for the last shot and Robinson obliged, hoping to make a stop and force overtime. However, Timmermann drove into the lane and banked in a five-foot runner, while being fouled with 2.9 seconds left. Timmermann would miss the free throw and Robinson called time-out after Jason Richart grabbed the rebound with 2.3 seconds left, trailing 56-54.
After the time-out, Landen Hoagland threw the ball to Richart near mid-court and after he dribbled into the frontcourt, Robinson called another time-out. However, there were only .4 seconds left on the clock, leaving the Maroons without a lot of options. After struggling to find an open man, Richart finally got the ball to Siler about 30 feet from the basket and he tried to draw contact on a desperation heave, but no call was made and Breese Central escaped with the win.
"We wanted to get the ball to half-court to get a better look," Thompson said. "I told the official we wanted to call time-out after we dribbled across half-court, but the clock ran too much. We were limited on what we could do with .4 left. Option one was to lob it to Michael, but they didn't let us have that, so we just had to try to find a shot. Aaron is one of those guys that if you get the ball near him, he is going to find a way to put it up. The officials didn't call a foul, so he didn't get fouled. It came down to they made a play at the end and we didn't. My hat's off to them."
Robinson made more total field goals than Breese Central in the game and the Maroons made more three-pointers than two-pointers, but a 14-point margin at the free throw line turned out to be the difference in the game.
The Maroons made 20-49 field goal attempts (41 percent), including 9-29 from two-point range (31 percent) and 11-20 from three-point range (55 percent), while Breese Central was 18-40 from the floor (45 percent), including 15-25 from inside the arc (60 percent) and 3-15 from long distance (20 percent). However, the Cougars made 17-24 free throw attempts in the game (71 percent), while Robinson made just 3-8 foul shots (37 percent).
"They are a bad free throw shooting team, but they hit them tonight," Thompson said. "You can't make 40 percent of your free throws and expect to win the game."
The loss spoiled an exceptional shooting night by Siler from three-point range. The senior knocked down 10-18 three-pointers in his final high school game and led all scorers with 36 points, along with three rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot. Unfortunately, no other RHS player scored more than five points in the game.
Nicholas posted five points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots, Scott netted five points and five rebounds, Akande totaled four points, three rebounds, one steal, one assist and one blocked shot, Blount added two points, three rebounds, two steals and two assists and Richart had two points and three rebounds. Scheer led Breese Central with 26 points, including a 12-14 performance at the free throw line, 11 rebounds, four blocked shots and two assists, while Rickhoff posted nine points, four rebounds, two steals and one assist.
Although the season came to a disappointing and abrupt end for the Maroons, Thompson is proud of what his team accomplished, especially his seniors - Siler, Blount, Nicholas, Scott and Austin Weck.
"Unless you win the state title, you are always disappointed when the season ends," Thompson said. "They played an outstanding season. I am proud of the seniors. They battled for 30 games for 32 minutes and gave the city of Robinson some exciting basketball to watch."
Despite the loss of the senior group, the cupboard is far from bare for the Maroons.
"I'm excited about the future. We've got some good pieces coming back and some really good young players coming up," Thompson said. "I told the kids we aren't going to rebuild, we are going to reload. We will be a different-looking team, but I expect the effort and energy to be the same and through hard work, the results will be the same."
Robinson ended its season with a 25-5 record. Breese Central (22-9) advances to play Teutopolis (27-3), a 58-42 winner over Roxana Tuesday, in the championship game of the Greenville Sectional Friday at 7:30 p.m.