EAST MOLINE - After staging a thrilling comeback in the game's closing minute, the Normal Community High School basketball team had the shot it wanted in the closing seconds.
However, a 3-point attempt by Duane Farrington from the top of the key at the buzzer bounded off the front of the rim, allowing Edwardsville to hold on for a 56-53 win over the Ironmen in a Class 4A Sectional championship game on Friday night.
"On Tuesday we had one roll in, in our favor," said NCHS coach Dave Witzig. "Tonight, they had one roll in their favor."
The favorable roll sent Edwardsville (29-3) into Tuesday night's Class 4A Super-Sectional at Redbird Arena.
The Ironmen bowed out at 23-9.
The hard-fought contest was tied at 40-40 heading into the final period after NCHS had battled back from a 33-28 halftime deficit.
Edwardsville spread the floor to open the fourth quarter with only a 3-pointer by Alex Peacock from the top of the key and a lay-in by Tyler Seibring on an inbounds pass standing in the way of Edwardsville marching to a seven-point lead with 1:24 remaining.
That's when the Ironmen applied full court pressure that initially gave the Tigers fits.
After Farrington, who had a team-high 13 points, scored on a three from up top, NCHS' David Boyd stole the ball and fed Farrington with what became a traditional three-point play to pull NCHS to within 52-51 with just under a minute remaining.
"Their press was good at the end and they gave us some problems with that," said Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo. "We actually haven't been pressed a lot this year and that was a whole new situation."
After missed opportunities for both teams in the final minute and time outs after each, the Tigers finally figured out NCHS pressure and scored four points late after beating the press.
Edwardsville's Darian Brown led the Tigers with 19 points, 15 of them coming from beyond the 3-point arc.
"That was a guy that we didn't mind him shooting and he knocked them down," Witzig said. "You have to give that kid credit for hitting shots in March."
Brown hit a pair of threes to give Edwardsville the early lead. A 10-0 NCHS run midway through the first quarter helped the Ironmen to an 18-13 lead at the first quarter break.
Defensive pressure by Edwardsville in forcing three consecutive NCHS turnovers in the second quarter led to the Tigers' largest lead of the night at 33-24 with 1:36 remaining in the half.
NCHS fought back with determination Witzig said he's seen all season.
"That's typical of the way we've played all year. The guys battled and did a great job," Witzig said. " We just got beat by a better team tonight."
Tyler Seibring added 11 points for NCHS. Armon Fletcher (15 points) and Shawn Roundtree (12) joined Brown in double figures for Edwardsville.