The Yorktown boys basketball team walked off its home court Friday night with its record still unblemished, but only after an improbable comeback that left its normally subdued head coach Greg Miller clapping emphatically as he walked into the locker room to celebrate with his players.
The Tigers rallied from 15 points down in the opening minute of the fourth quarter to pull out a stunning 50-48 Hoosier Heritage Conference victory against Shelbyville. Yorktown (7-0, 3-0 HHC) moves into sole possession of first place. Mount Vernon and New Palestine both sit a half game back with 2-0 HHC marks.
Miller said before the game that his team needed to control the paint and knock down some early 3-pointers to bring Shelbyville out of its 2-3 zone. Yorktown managed neither in the first half. The Tigers shot a woeful 1-of-11 from 3-point range, and the Golden Bears held a 20-10 rebound advantage.
The Yorktown coach stressed at halftime for his team to stop settling for 3-pointers and to start attacking inside.
“I thought our last three minutes (of the first half) there was a couple times where (Tyler) Brumley and (Riley) Neal were open after a pass-pass,” Miller said. “They were standing under the rim all by themselves. All they had to do was catch it and score.”
The Tigers followed his instructions and the game turned physical in the third quarter with both teams pounding the ball into the paint. The officials called nine fouls on Yorktown and seven on Shelbyville in the third quarter alone and by early in the fourth both teams reached 10 fouls for the double bonus.
The Golden Bears (1-5, 0-2 HHC) matched the Tigers point for point in the third to maintain their 11-point halftime lead entering the fourth quarter. Shelbyville then scored the opening four points of the final quarter to push its lead to 15 at 45-30.
At that point, Yorktown extended its man-to-man defense to full court to try and generate some turnovers. Instead, the Tigers committed fouls, but that turned out to be a positive. Shelbyville sank only 4-of-10 free throws in the fourth quarter to open the door for Yorktown to comeback.
The Tigers cut the deficit to single digits at eight, 47-39, on a pair of Riley Miller free throws with 4:08 on the clock. Jordan Bibbs followed with a jumper and back-to-back baskets inside by Neal pulled the Tigers within two, 47-45, with 1:28 remaining in the game.
Shelbyville momentarily stopped the bleeding with a free throw by Jake Laker, but Bibbs then buried a 3-pointer from the right corner to pull Yorktown even at 48-all with 47 seconds on the clock. Bibbs sank three 3-pointers and paced Yorktown with 15 points.
The Golden Bears held the ball for the potential last shot, but as the clock ticked down under 10 seconds, their star guard Adam Eads lost his dribble. Miller scooped up the ball and a Golden Bear grabbed him before he threw the ball ahead to his open teammates down the court.
Miller walked down to the other end and cooly sank two free throws with 3.4 seconds on the clock to put the Tigers up for the first time since late in the first quarter.
“I was kind of nervous, but then I heard my middle-school coach. He was saying, ‘You’ve got this Riley’ behind the bench,” Riley Miller said, “and then I had the whole team and they were saying, ‘You’ve got this, you’ve got this,’ and I just went out there and did my thing.”
Eads then missed a desperation half-court heave as Yorktown escaped with the victory and its perfect record intact.
“It means a lot to me at least,” Neal said of staying unbeaten. “I think everyone in (the locker room) is excited, too.”