Nothing was settled until a last-second 3-pointer clanged off the rim Monday as the Highland Bulldogs held off Mascoutah 36-33 to advance to the semifinals of the Class 3A Mater Dei Regional.
Mascoutah used a 10-2 run to help wipe out a 12-point deficit in the third quarter. The Indians (10-20) got as close as 32-31 with 3:33 remaining on a shot by Nathan Forsyth, but Highland’s Sam LaPorta scored with 46 seconds remaining and added another free throw to help the Bulldogs pull it out.
LaPorta finished with 15 points.
Mascoutah’s Jaydon Stewart missed two 3-pointers in the closing seconds and only then could the Bulldogs celebrate the victory.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Highland coach Brian Perkes, whose squad split four games this season with Mississippi Valley Conference rival Mascoutah. “We had an idea they were going to slow the game down and they did, it made each possession very important. We had too many unforced turnovers and we took some bad shots.
“I thought we had them on the ropes and their quickness got them back in the game. They hit some big 3s.”
HIghland (10-19) will face Mater Dei (17-11) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the regional semifinals. Perkes was Mater Dei’s head coach from 2005 to 2013 before being replaced by current Knights coach Ron Schadegg.
The Indians were playing without second-leading leader Blake Weiss, who suffered a fractured wrist and missed the final six games. Highland held Mascoutah scoring leader Malik Green to one point and no field goals.
Noah Brandon and Forsyth each hit 3-pointers in the third quarter to help fuel the Mascoutah comeback. Stewart cut Highland’s lead to 35-33 with 34.6 seconds remaining, but LaPorta hit the first of two free throws 10 seconds later to restore Highland’s three-point advantage.
After another Mascoutah miss, Highland missed a free throw. The Indians got the ball inbounds at their own end with 1.9 seconds left, but Stewart’s long 3-point try was short and glanced off the rim.
“They were one possession away from sending the game into overtime,” Perkes said. “Fortunately for us we won and we move on. It wasn’t pretty, but we do advance.”
Along with LaPorta’s 15 points, Highland got nine points from Brady Feldman and seven from Jake Kruse. Glen Gibbons led Mascoutah with 12 points and Stewart had eight.
Feldman’s 3-pointer gave Highland a 26-14 lead midway through the third quarter.