With time running down to 12 seconds with the score tied Tuesday in the Class 3A Springfield Super-Sectional, East St. Louis guard Jashawn Anderson knew he had to make a play.
Instead Anderson made The Play.
Anderson stripped Springfield Southeast all-state guard Terrion Murdox and fed Travion Jones who scored the go-ahead basket as the Flyers clinched their first trip to the state tournament since the 1999-2000 season with a 56-52 win over Springfield Southeast.
Second in the Class 3A state tournament a year ago and playing before a partisan crowd on Tuesday, the Spartans were in a delay game for much of the fourth quarter. But the strategy which helped them to a 30-3 record backfired when Murdix was double-teamed near the top of the key and was stripped by Anderson.
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“Tie game, the clock running down .... I knew I had to make a play for my team,” Anderson said. “I saw (Murdix) make a move and I was able to get my hands on the basketball.
“This is the best feeling in the world. We knew we could get this done. And we’re not done yet. We’re going to Peoria to win the state championship.”
Southeast got the ball back with seven second left, but turned the ball over again. When senior Terrence Hargrove made two free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining, the Flyers (28-6) knew they were bound for the Class 3A State Tournament on Friday at the Peoria Civic Center.
East Side will face Peoria Manual, which defeated Glenbard South 69-52 to win the Dekalb Super-Sectional, in a state semifinal game Friday at 1 p.m.
“It means everything to the school, these kids and community,” second year Flyers head coach Mark Chambers said. “We have overcome a lot to get here. Terrence (Hargrove) has had five different coaches since he’s been here. For these kids to be able to overcome and beat a very good Southeast team here tonight ... I can’t tell you how proud I am of this basketball team.”
Hargrove, a St. Louis University recruit, scored 12 of his 22 points in the first half to help the Flyers to a 24-19 halftime lead. The Flyers widened the lead to seven points in the opening seconds of the the third quarter before Southeast started to find its shooting touch.
With Stepheon Sims and Devin Blue-Robinson combining for 11 points, the Spartans took a 39-37 lead entering the fourth quarter. That’s when Southeast went into slow-down mode to protect the lead, taking more then 90 seconds off the clock on one possession.
But when Hargrove made two free throws with 36 seconds left to tie the game at 52, the stage was set for the heroics of Anderson and Jones.
“(Southeast) went into their delay game early. But our kids are tenacious defenders. I thought we showed great poise in the fourth quarter,” Chambers said.
Cornelius LeFlore added 12 points, including a pair of crucial 3-point baskets, for the Flyers. But with his teammates still enjoying the moment long after the win, Hargrove put the win in perspective.
“We knew we had to play well tonight and we did that. It’s been a long hard road, but to be able to get East St. Louis back to the state tournament for the first time in almost 20 years, it’s a long time coming,” Hargrove said. “Thank the Lord because without him none of this would have been possible.”
Sims led Southeast with 12 points while sophomore James Dent added 11.