For one decisive sequence of the game, it was as if Jerseyville's Jake Varble was playing keep-away from the Mascoutah Indians.
The 6-foot-5 senior got four shots from under the basket and above the outstretched arms of Mascoutah defense before he finally made the game-winner fall with 26 seconds left. Jerseyville defeated Mascoutah 48-47.
Varble's juggling act teased victory away from the Indians and may leave them grasping for their shot at a Mississippi Valley Conference championship as well.
Mascoutah fell to 6-16 overall, but a victory would have left them at 3-1 in MVC play and just a win behind Highland for first place. Instead, Jerseyville (14-8 overall) earned its way to a tie for the conference lead.
"We told our guys, this one is going to hurt a little bit, but we still go to their place and play them again," said Mascoutah coach Cody Reynolds. "We're one down in the loss column right now with six conference games left to go. So we feel like we still control of our own destiny, but we've got to make sure close games like this we can turn into wins instead of tough losses."
Mascoutah fell behind nine points early, but a 9-2 run to close out the first half left the Indians down by just two, 18-16.
Another seven-point run, capped by senior Thomas Trumbull's three-point basket, gave the Indians their first lead of the game with 3:58 left in the third quarter.
"They've got a lot of offensive weapons and I they had 18 at the half. To hold them to under 20 when shots weren't falling for us definitely kept us in the game," Reynolds said. "We were able to get a little run there to get close at the end of the first half and take the lead in the third quarter."
But the lead changed hands 10 more times.
Mascoutah looked like it might take command when Trumbull scored with a stick-back of his own missed shot and another 3-pointer to make the score 39-32. But Jerseyville regained the lead on a three-point basket from Drake Kanallakan, his only points of the game.
Trailing by two with 1:14 left, Trumbull, who finished with 16 points, drained a three-pointer to put the Indians in the lead 47-46.
Jerseyville missed several shots on its next possession, but succeeded in keeping the ball out of Mascoutah hands. It took Varble four shots from under the basket to sink the game winner.
"It’s a tough way for them to get the lead because we had just told them we need five guys going to the boards and boxing out,” Reynolds said. “We knew with them being down that they were really going to crash if the initial shot didn't go. We just didn't check off like we needed to and Varble, you know he's a good athlete and a big strong kid, and once he gets his hands on it you're not going to take it away from him. He went up and finished it for them.
"We knew it would be a back and forth game and that offensive rebound at the end really came back to get us."
Zac Ridenhour was the game's high scorere with 17 points and Luke Shively had 16. Also scoring for Jerseyville were Varble with 10, Kanallakan with three and Jacob Witt with two.
Besides Trumbull's 16, Brian Pettiford had 15 for the Indians. Chris Simmons and Tim Parks each had six and Alex Dauber and Devyne Strong scored two apiece.