McAuley's Kevin O'Keefe got the ball back on a give-and-go inbounds play and drove for the go-ahead basket with four seconds remaining as the Warriors edged Southwest, 54-52, at Washburn on Friday night.
Backed by a raucous crowd and a rockin' band, Southwest battled from a 10-point deficit with two minutes left in the first half to take a 50-46 lead with 2:27 left in the fourth quarter. From there, O'Keefe scored three baskets in the final 2:07 to stun the home crowd.
The Trojans celebrated Tipoff on Friday night, crowning senior Kelsey Henry as queen. Then, following a 49-16 blowout victory for the home team in the JV contest, the Southwest varsity took the floor for the Ozark 7 Conference match with Joplin McAuley.
In the Ozark 7, every game is a must win situation for those who hope to vie with the defending champion Purdy Eagles for the 2009 conference crown. The Eagles were 11-0 in conference play last year and are off to another great start, with their only loss to powerhouse Clever in the finals of the Clever Tournament.
Southwest broke on top 3-0 with Austin Rettman nailing a trey after two minutes of play. Matt Whittington's baby hook in the lane gave Southwest a five-point lead, but Rocky Spry answered for McAuley with a pair of free throws and a basket to cut the lead to 5-4.
The lead seesawed back and forth, with the Warriors assuming the lead at 12-10 when Southwest's Skylar Knoll decked O'Keefe on a three-point attempt. McAuley's ace proceeded to drain all three free throws. Rettman sailed another trey through the net with only nine seconds left in the quarter, and the buzzer punctuated the Trojans' 13-12 lead.
McAuley rattled off 18 points in the second quarter to 11 for Southwest, as both Trojan guards left the game. Floorleader Josh Hartin collected his third foul at the 5:28 mark of the quarter, and Levi Roberts limped to the dressing room with an injury less than a minute later.
With three freshmen on the floor, Southwest watched the score mount against them, with the deficit reaching double digits with just under three minutes before halftime. But the Warriors failed to score any more before half, and Knoll dropped a pair of free throws to cut the margin to 8 at the intermission.
The original starting lineups took the floor for the third quarter, and Southwest dialed up the full court pressure to try to crawl back into the game. When Justin Barber put back a missed layup by Roberts with 48 seconds left in the period, the Trojans were within reach at 44-39.
Southwest went on a 9-0 run to start the fourth quarter, with Hartin, Roberts and Rettman doing the damage. The Trojans enjoyed a 48-44 lead with 4:55 to play and again led by the same margin at 50-46 with 2:27 on the clock before O'Keefe authored his game-winning heroics.
O'Keefe led the Warriors with 20 points, followed by Spry with 19 and Garrett Wagner with 9. Southwest, now 2-3 on the season, was led by Roberts with 19, even though he had to leave the game in the second quarter with an injury that looked like a game-ender for him.
"Levi suffered a sprained ankle against Galena on Tuesday, and it was still very tender coming into tonight's game," said Coach Jason Horn. "He came down on it wrong in the second quarter and sprained it again."Rettman scored 17 for the Trojans on the strength of his five three-pointers. Saddled with three early fouls, Hartin was limited to just 6.
But the Trojans played well despite the foul troubles and injury to Roberts and had a chance to win or at least send the game into overtime until O'Keefe scored.
"You have to give McAuley credit for executing on that last play," said Horn. "We knew what they were going to do, and I thought we did a good job of denying the ball and had good help side, he (O'Keefe) just made a great play."