By Jakub Rudnik
CHAMPAIGN — Keshon Singleton’s last-second heave hit the rim, the backboard and then the rim two more times.
But it went in, and Sacred Heart-Griffin won the 3A boys state title, 53-50.
It wasn’t what the Cyclones drew up with the game tied in double overtime. Instead, a kicked ball forced Singleton to throw up a fadeaway three as time expired.
“The ball was loose and I was like, ‘Ok, I’ve gotta throw up a prayer to even have a chance,’” Singleton said. “It went in … I’m just so proud we can call ourselves state champions.”
The Cyclones needed many bounces to go their way late to even have the chance.
With 5:11 remaining in the fourth quarter, Metamora scored to go up 38-32. But Sacred Heart-Griffin held Metamora to four points the rest of regulation, forcing six turnovers with a frenetic press.
“If you start playing defense like that, the whole team will be fouled out,” Cyclones coach Tim Allen said of turning up the defensive pressure. “You have to pull that out fourth quarter, maybe overtime. … That’s exhausting to play that hard.”
Junior forward Zack Hawkinson scored in the paint with four seconds remaining to complete the comeback. He led all players with 27 points and 13 rebounds.
Metamora led 50-46 in the second overtime after two Drew Tucker free throws. Hawkinson answered with a basket in the post to cut the lead to two.
On the other end, Metamora appeared to have a clear lane to the basket but a timeout was called by coach Danny Grieves. Instead of a Metamora basket, J’veon Bardwell made two free throws after a steal and fast break.
On the next Metamora possession, Hawkinson forced Metamora junior Ethan Kizer to dribble off his leg out of bounds.
The possession change led to the final possession of the game.
Sacred Heart Griffin was in the 2019 state finals before they were cancelled as the pandemic began. The team started the 2021-22 season in 2A before learning they’d be bumped up to 3A. The Cyclones won two other overtime games in the state series.
“When he shot it and it hit the front of the rim, I was just like, ‘It’s going in,’ I just had a feeling,” Allen said. “Our season had been like that.
“There’s no better ending than the ending we had today,” Allen said.
Jake Hamilton and Singleton each finished with nine points and four rebounds for the Cyclones.
For Metamora, Tyson Swanson scored a team-high 17 points, including a 10 in a row in the third quarter. Zack Schroeder had 11 points and nine rebounds, and Drew Tucker scored 10 points.