Two of the past four seasons for the Hillcrest High School basketball program have ended with trips to state.
The other two, however, ended in the same gym, against the same opponent.
It was an even more painful and abrupt ending this time against St. Francis Borgia on Wednesday at Missouri S&T, as Jordan Miller’s buzzer-beating jumper bounced the Hornets 47-45 in the Class 4 sectionals.
Senior Roy Hardy, who later on Twitter called this year’s Hillcrest team the best he’s played on in three years, made a 3-pointer with 9.9 seconds to play to tie the game at 45.
Unfortunately for the Hornets (22-6), Hardy only set up Miller’s dramatics.
After a timeout, Miller took the inbounds pass and took the ball all the way to the foul-line extension on the right wing. He then backed the ball out to the top of the key before stepping up and knocking down a 17-footer.
“We wanted to push it down, and I decided to take the last shot,” Miller said. “I got it to the free-throw line where I like shooting it.”
Added Borgia coach Dave Neier: “What a great feeling when you see it go through and the scoreboard lights up in the background.”
Last time against this team in this gym, Borgia shot Dorial Green-Beckham and the Hornets out of the 2011 state quarterfinals, hitting eight 3-pointers in the first half en route to a 10-point win.
This year, Borgia moves to Saturday’s quarterfinals to play Republic at 1 p.m. at Drury’s O’Reilly Family Event Center.
“I think we took them for granted a little bit,” Hillcrest senior Thomas Whittaker said. “They played smarter than we did, and we just didn’t give a good enough effort on defense.”
Borgia (20-8) employed a two-three zone, which the smaller Hornets have not had trouble with this year, Hillcrest coach John Schaefer said.
Hillcrest has made a habit of breaking down those zones, and kicking to open shooters, Schaefer said. Then, teams have switched to man-to-man, resulting in many wide margins for the Ozark Conference champions.
“That’s as poorly as we’ve played,” Schaefer said. “The bottom line is I felt like we forced our own turnovers.”
Whittaker battled foul trouble throughout and Austin Petry, the only remaining member from the 2010 state champions, scored six points but was all over the floor, as usual.
Hillcrest led in the first quarter, but Miller’s shot from behind half-court at the first-quarter buzzer helped them climb back to a second-quarter lead.
After falling behind by eight points twice in the third, Hillcrest led for just 1:36 of the fourth quarter, its only lead after halftime.
“I’m really proud of them for what they’ve accomplished this year,” Schaefer said. “It’s hurtful to go out the way they did because I felt like, if we played a good game and lose, you could … we just didn’t. We didn’t play well.”