Shattered basketball dreams.
Rockford Lutheran (28-3) ended Gordon’s season 56-53 on Friday night in the Class 2A sectional championship at South Beloit. The Rams were hoping to advance to the state finals for the fourth time in school history.
Mahlike Graham missed a three-point shot as time expired as Gordon rallied from a 14-point deficit in the third quarter.
“I thought it was in (the basket),”Gordon coach Shay Boyle said after the loss. “If that goes in we win in overtime. We were not going to be denied. We had the right (play) called. A perfect look for a senior.”
“They are a very good team,” Rockford Lutheran Ton Guse said after the win by the Crusaders. “We were fortunate to come away with a win.”
The Crusaders will now face Fieldcrest in the Class 2A supersectional at Northern Illinois on Tuesday night.
Gordon cut the lead to 54-53 late in the final quarter, but the Rams failed to score on three consective possessions.
Tey Montgomery, who scored 18 of his game-high 22 points in the second half, made two of four free throws to seal the win.
“I didn’t hit my free throws as much as I wanted,” admitted Montgomery, who transferred from Rockford Boylan, which is considered one of the top basketball programs in the state after his junior year. “In the end it all worked out.”
Montgomery might have made the game’s biggest play as he stole the basketball from Gordon’s Jerry Davis with 8.1 seconds left. Montgomery was fouled and made one of two foul shots for a 56-53 advantage.
Graham missed his three pointer to end the contest.
“He does a lot for us,” said Guse on Montgomery. “He can bring the ball up the floor. He can shoot the long ball. He’s a strong presence inside. He works hard. He’s been a great player for us.”
“He’s a great athlete,” said Boyle who was impressed with Montgomery. “I love kids like him. He’s a versatile player. He’s a transfer and he has fit in great with their team. They lean on him.”
Montgomery scored 18 of his team’s 22 points in the second half as the Crusaders built a 14-point lead in the third quarter.
The Rams rallied behind Scott Calderon and Devanchey Bell. Calderon scored eight points, and Bell added two three-pointers in the third quarter after a scoreless first half.
The Crusaders were protecting a 49-41 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Rams led only once as they committed 14 turnovers in the first half to fall behind 31-23.
Alex Oates added 11 points for the Crusaders while Montgomery contributed with 10 rebounds.
Davis and Graham led the Rams with 13 points while sharpshooter Dave Andrews was scoreless.
Andrews advanced to the three-point shooting competition downstate.
“I knew we would comeback,” Boyle said. “I saw a look in their eyes that I’ve never seen before from any team I have coached. They just wanted it so bad. I’m proud of these guys for fighting back.”
“We played a good team tonight,” admitted Guse. “We scored just enough points to win. We prevailed just enough on the defensive end to pull it out.”
“Defense is our main thing,” said Montgomery.
The difference may have been those three stops by the Crusaders in the final quarter as the Rams couldn’t take the lead.