For 31 minutes of basketball on Friday night, Leesville and Heritage played to a deadlocked 58-58 tie in a battle for third place in the Cap-8 Conference.
Then the most mocked man on the floor unleashed his revenge.
Heritage’s DeSean Mosby, taunted by “air ball” chants throughout the game after an ugly first-quarter miss, stole the ball from Leesville’s Jonathan Mebane, dashed down the court and made the winning layup with six seconds on the clock.
A last-second heave from Alex Hunter, who led Leesville (9-9, 5-3) with 21 points in the game, just missed and Heritage (12-6, 5-3) celebrated a highly dramatic 60-58 road victory.
“It was overwhelming,” said an exhausted Hunter after the game. “I thought we had the game [won] the entire time but we just didn’t bring the intensity that we usually do.”
“I don’t think we finished the way we wanted to finish the ballgame,” said Leesville head coach Russ Frazier. “We played very flat and lethargic in the second half. [Heritage] came back, got in the game and we had a hard time catching the flow after that.”
Hunter hit a pair of quick three-pointers to tie the game at 51-51 with 3:40 remaining after Heritage had taken their first lead of the game minutes earlier. The teams traded points over an intense final minutes, including Eric Scollard giving the Pride a 58-56 edge with 1:04 left, but Mebane was tied up by two Huskies defenders while attempting to play for the final shot. The Pride had four timeouts left at the time.
“Maybe I should’ve called timeout, maybe we should’ve taken a shot, maybe we should’ve done this, maybe we should’ve done that, but we didn’t do any of those things,” said Frazier. “We decided to play the game out and that’s how it played out.”
In front of an electric crowd, the Pride grabbed the early advantage and led 28-21 at halftime. They entered the final frame with a 41-37 lead and already in the bonus, but got into foul trouble of their own in the fourth quarter. Leesville drained 14 of 18 free throws as a team; Heritage made just 12 of 21 but also heavily out-rebounded the Pride.
Hunter tallied nine of his team-leading 21 points in the fourth quarter, while Mebane scored 10 of his 16 in the first half. Ben Zemonek registered eight points, all coming in the third quarter.
“I played OK [but] it wasn’t enough,” said Hunter. “My individual points doesn’t really matter me; I just wanted to win.”
For Heritage, Ian Hinkley led the visitors with 12 points, with Jayden Gardner and Jarron McAllister each adding 11.
Seven of Mosby’s eight points, including the game-winner, came in the fourth quarter.
Said Hunter, “One of our best players (Mebane) had the ball in his hands, so…I think he’s going to do his best and what happens happens. That’s in the past and we’re just going to move on.”