With the help of a fearless 5-foot-10, 150-pound point guard, the DeSales High School basketball team put an end to a hellish seven-year drought.
Nick Phillips scored a career-high 27 points and added seven assists and five steals as the Colts beat Western 69-66 on Tuesday in a 22nd District Tournament semifinal at Iroquois.
Once a fixture in the Sixth Region Tournament — including four straight runner-up finishes from 2003-06 — DeSales had lost seven consecutive district tournament openers. But with Tuesday’s victory, the Colts locked up a spot in next week’s regional.
“(Our seniors) had to play early on when they got here and they got murdered for two or three years … but we have our program going now,” coach John Mingus said. “We have good players in each class.
“A lot of times we’re outmatched athletically, height-wise and skill-wise. But they play hard, and they’ve been playing hard for four years. They’re finally growing up and starting to mature.”
Chase Shellman added 20 points for the Colts (20-8), who will play the winner of tonight’s Doss-Iroquois semifinal in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. final at Iroquois. Both finalists earn spots in the Sixth Region Tournament.
Kittrell Withers scored 22 points and Daykice Crumes and Chris McCraw 13 apiece for Western (14-9), which fell behind 16-4 midway through the first quarter and never could pull even.
“We fought back, fought back, fought back,” coach Terrence Moorman said. “We just didn’t get it done when we needed to.”
Shellman came out on fire, nailing four 3-pointers and scoring 14 of his team’s first 16 points. DeSales led 28-14 midway through the second quarter and 31-21 at halftime before the Warriors charged back.
Terrell Howard’s 3-pointer cut it to 41-40 with 48 seconds left in the third quarter, and Western had several chances to tie or take the lead in the fourth.
Moorman said the momentum shifted with 6:26 left in the fourth quarter, when McCraw was whistled for goaltending on a shot by Willie Schurfranz that gave the Colts a 46-42 edge. Moorman got a technical foul, but Nathan Roush missed both free throws. Still, it turned into a four-point possession when Shellman scored for a 48-42 lead with 6:10 remaining.
“If that (goaltending) doesn’t get called, it’s a two-point game and we have possession,” Moorman said. “But that’s high school basketball. Anything can happen when you deal with high school officials. Tough loss.”
Withers’ three-point play pulled Western within 68-66 with 22.5 seconds left, then Shaun Sullivan made 1 of 2 free throws to close the scoring with 7.9 seconds remaining. Crumes’ off-balance 3-point try at the buzzer was off, sparking an emotional celebration by the Colts.
“I was nervous,” Phillips said of Crumes’ final shot. “As soon as I saw it didn’t go in I ran over to the bench and just hugged Coach. I knew how much it meant to him. It means a lot to me and our team and our program.”
Phillips scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, hitting 6 of 6 free throws. He was 10 of 14 for the game.
“Nick Phillips doesn’t get a lot of attention in our region, but I’d take him over any point guard in the region,” Mingus said. “Those plays he made down the stretch were unbelievable — defensively and offensively.”
– Tubb 3, Roush 7, Phillips 27, Breedlove 1, Shellman 20, W. Schurfranz 3, Saylor 3, Sullivan 5.DeSales (20-8)
– Crumes 13, McCraw 13, Moore 4, Brown 7, Withers 22, Howard 5, Malone 2.Western (14-9)
– Tubb, Phillips, Shellman 4; Crumes, Moore, Brown, Howard.3-point goals