Luke Hensler made sure that Okawville was on the right side of overtime when it mattered most.
The Rockets (25-8) lost two overtime games in the regular season but Hensler's denial of Terrell Walker's game-winning shot lifted the Rockets to a 65-64, double-overtime win at the Class 1A Jacksonville Super-Sectional.
"It helps that we've been there and we know we wanted to go back because we've had that thirst, but we've played a lot of overtime games this year so that helped us stay cool (tonight)," Hensler said.
Okawville wouldn't have been in the game if it weren't for Hensler’s 24 points and 11 rebounds, but it was his block of Quest senior Terrell Walker that sent the Rockets back to the Class 1A state finals.
"I saw (Walker) driving down the lane and I knew I couldn't let him get an easy layup, so I had to take the chance of either blocking it or letting him get a layup, and if I fouled him I had to hope he missed the free throws," said Hensler.
After a pair of Payten Harre free throws gave Okawville a 65-61 lead, Walker stepped into a 3-pointer with 14.9 seconds left to cut the lead to 65-64. He also hit a 3-pointer at the end of regulation to keep the Gators (26-8) alive.
"I thought he hit the one at the end of the first overtime and the one at the end of regulation I thought he had that one there for sure," Quest coach Michael Jenkins said. "I thought we were going home right there and he didn’t have it, but he kept fighting."
Prior to Harre's free throws, Quest had four opportunities to tie the game at 63 but missed each look around the rim after grabbing three offensive rebounds.
"A lot of times they go in for us that close; you just can’t miss that many opportunities and not put it in the hole and tie it up again," said Jenkins.
Quest's fullcourt pressure caused Okawville fits, leading to 14 turnovers and nearly costing the Rockets their state berth not once, not twice but three times.
"We just had to minimize it and try to not get turnovers that led to lay-ups," said Okawville coach Jon Kraus. "A couple times we threw it out of bounds and we got our defense to set up and maybe it didn't hurt us, but there at the end when they started coming back we turned it over and it turned into layups."
Quest’s Avierre Ross scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Gators, but fouled out with 14.5 seconds left in the first overtime. That allowed Hensler to get more post touches in the second overtime period, when he'd score six of the team's 10 points.
"I had the height advantage on their guys and my teammates were able to recognize that and give me the ball," said Hensler. "And when I get double-teamed I try to dish out to my teammates and let them get easy buckets. It just helps when we’re all clicking together as a unit."
Okawville advances to the Class 1A state finals after placing second last season. The Rockets will play at 1 p.m. on Friday at Carver Arena against Goreville, which beat Moweaqua Central A&M 74-61 in the Carbondale Super-Sectional.