FRONTENAC, Kan. — With his team trailing by two, and with little time left on the clock, Logan Applegate had planned on creating off the dribble.
Instead, and with the game’s outcome hanging in the balance, the Nevada senior guard pulled up from long range.
For Applegate and the Tigers, that split-second decision proved to be a good one.
Applegate buried a game-winning 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left to lift Nevada to a thrilling 51-50 come-from-behind victory over Webb City on Saturday in the championship game of the Freeman Sports Medicine Mid-Season Shoot-Out at Frontenac High School.
“This is a huge win for us,” Applegate said. “This is the one we wanted. We had Webb City circled on our calendar, so this is definitely a big win and we’re super happy.”
The game was deadlocked at 48 when Webb City senior guard Nickhai Howard hit a mid-range jumper near the foul line with 7.8 seconds remaining to give the Cardinals a two-point cushion.
After a timeout, the Tigers pushed the ball up the floor and Applegate found the ball in his hands near halfcourt with time running out.
The closely-guarded Applegate took a couple of dribbles and then rose up from beyond the arc on the right wing—and his shot went in.
“The plan was for me to get the ball on the move and then for me to create, like a fastbreak,” Applegate said. “Their defense played back, so thank God for some space and my teammates got me the ball. I always try to elevate on my shots so there’s not a hand in my face as much. The shot felt good.”
“They swarmed him, but he just rose up and hit it,” Nevada coach Shaun Gray said. “He made a heck of a shot and he made several big shots in the fourth quarter. Logan put us on his shoulders. That was clutch by him. Our guys executed at the end.”
Webb City coach Jason Horn gave the Tigers and their sharp-shooter credit after what was a disappointing setback for his Cardinals.
“Good players make plays,” Horn said, noting Applegate’s shot was well-guarded. “He made a play. He’s really talented. He showed he’s one of the better guards in the area.”
After Applegate’s trey splashed home, and following a timeout, Webb City attempted a full-court pass, but it was intercepted by Nevada’s Ben Hines and time expired.
Applegate’s shot capped a nice comeback for the Tigers.
The Cardinals held a 12-point lead with two minutes left in the third period, but Nevada outscored Webb City 19-9 in the final frame.
“We weren’t very good offensively today,” Horn said. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well. We gave them chances and they hung around. You have to give Nevada credit. Their kids stayed mentally tough. We had our chances to stretch the lead several times and we didn’t do it. You can’t let a good team hang around like that.”
NAMES & NUMBERS
Applegate scored a game-high 25 points, hitting 9-of-17 shots, including four treys. Applegate has offers from Texas State and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and may attend a prep school next year before making his college decision, Gray noted.
Senior guard Logan McNeley added 11 points and six rebounds for the Tigers, who made 19-of-34 field goal attempts (56 percent).
Webb City wasn’t able to overcome a poor shooting night, as the Cardinals shot 30 percent from the floor (16-of-53), including 3-of-19 from beyond the arc.
Senior guard Nickhai Howard had a double-double for the Cardinals with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Fellow senior Mekhi Garrard added 13 points and seven boards, while classmate Trenton Hayes had nine points.
The Cardinals out-rebounded the Tigers 31-20.
Garrard nailed his second trey of the opening period and Alex Martin scored inside, giving Webb City an 11-7 lead.
But Applegate buried a 3-pointer, cutting his team’s deficit to one at the end of the first quarter at 11-10.
The Cardinals went up five when Cohl Vaden and Hayes both scored on putbacks inside, but the Tigers stayed within striking distance for the rest of the second quarter. Two hoops from Evan Rea and a layup from Logan McNeley trimmed Webb City’s lead to one.
Howard hit a pull-up jumper at the conclusion of the first half, giving the Cardinals a 26-23 advantage at the break.
Webb City went up 12 with two minutes remaining in the third period after a putback from Hayes.
The Tigers answered with five straight points, but Howard drained a fall away jumper at the buzzer to give Webb a 41-32 lead heading into the fourth period.
Nevada scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter and the game was close the rest of the way.
Before his game-winner, Applegate drained two other treys in the fourth period.
Webb City’s Garrard and Hayes and Nevada’s Hines all hit clutch free throws late in the game, tying the score at 48.
That’s when the versatile Howard gave the Cardinals the lead, only to see Applegate connect on his cold-blooded trey moments later.
“This win is huge for these guys,” Gray said. “We wanted them to get a signature win and a tournament championship. Our seniors have poured their heart and soul into the program. The twins (Logan and Lane McNeley) grew up with their dad (John) as the high school’s basketball coach. For our seniors, their high school basketball program means a lot to them. I’m just really proud of the effort all these guys gave today.”
Nevada improved to 11-5, while Webb City dropped to 11-3. The Cardinals, who are ranked fourth in Class 5, had beaten the Tigers 65-55 at the Kaminsky Classic on Jan. 7.
The Cardinals and Tigers are district opponents, so there’s a chance they’ll meet again when the postseason arrives. It’s Nevada’s third straight Frontenac tourney championship. Nevada hosts Carthage next Friday.
A BUSY WEEK FOR WEBB CITY
Webb City has a busy week ahead. The Cardinals travel to Harrisonville on Tuesday before beginning play at the Nixa Tournament on Wednesday.
“We have four games next week,” Horn said. “We have to get on to the next one. We’ll work on some things in practice on Monday and hopefully we’ll keep getting better.”