One team’s mortal sin was another’s salvation in the semifinals of the NJCAA Region VI Tournament on Wednesday night.
With just under four seconds left on the clock, trailing by a point, Labette Cardinals guard Devin Longstreet rebounded a missed free throw and raced down the floor. As the final second ticked, Longstreet threw up a running shot from behind the arc.
While the shot missed, a referee howled on his whistle. Highland Scotties guard Marquise Milton had made contact with Longstreet and was charged with a shooting foul.
With a half second left on the clock, Longstreet hit 2-of-3 free throws to give Labette a 69-68 win and a berth into Saturday’s region championship against Johnson County.
Craziness to end the game as Devin Longstreet was fouled on a 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left and Labette trailing by one. Longstreet hit 2-of-3 free throws to win the game over Highland. pic.twitter.com/Kcwl4k2XL6— Sean Frye (@SeanEFrye) April 8, 2021
“I’m going to sound like a recording, but I was just proud,” Labette head coach Jerrod Stanford said. “It was awe and pride. We try to get them to believe in themselves and be their best selves. Just keep playing.”
Stanford felt the officiating crew made the right call on Longstreet’s shot.
“The guy got all the way into him,” Stanford said. “He got underneath (Devin) and he didn’t have room to land. I applaud the officials for making the call. That’s a tough call to make and they made the right call.”
Labette didn’t call a timeout off Longstreet’s rebound, giving the freshman guard the green light to rush up the court.
“I noticed we weren’t going to call a timeout,” Longstreet said. “Our team trusts me. So I just went with my instinct and I got the call.”
Sophomore guard Ghage Kenan led Labette with 14 points and six assists while adding a pair of rebounds. He was 3-of-8 on triples in the game.
“I thought he was going to make every single one of those threes,” Stanford said. “He’s a gamer. He likes the game and loves to compete. He loves the moment.”
Longstreet also had six assists to go along with 13 points in the game.
“He did a good job of running stuff,” Stanford said. “He’s played high-level basketball his whole life so I’m not surprised. He’s won a lot of games in his career.”
Highland was paced in the box score by Jaylen Subject, who had 13 points.
Labette and Highland’s rotation contrasted styles in Wednesday’s semifinal. While the Scotties routinely platooned five in, five out, the Cardinals relied on a shorter bench.
“It’s never been a concern,” Stanford said. “That might sound crazy. But there’s a couple things I won’t care about. Some of them are golden rules of basketball. But I don’t care about foul trouble. And depth issues have never been a worry for me. We’re the healthiest we’ve been in a long time.”
Throughout Labette’s run down the last three weeks — the Cardinals have won three of its last four games and secured the school’s first ever KJCCC title in men’s basketball — the 3-point shot has become part of its identity. Labette was 11-of-23 from deep against the Scotties.
“It’s not something we concentrate on, but we teach guys to be ready, catch and shoot at all times,” Stanford said. “That might be the best shot we get in that possession. You’ve got to take the open shots when they come.”
Labette heads to the championship of the Region VI Tournament in Wichita for the second time under Stanford’s tenure on Saturday. There, the Cardinals will face fellow KJCCC champion Johnson County.
“It feels great,” Longstreet said. “We have excellent coaches that give us a great gameplan. We just come out here and execute. Once we do that, nobody can beat us but us.”
NJCAA REGION VI TOURNAMENT
Labette 69, Highland 68
Labette: 32 37 — 69
Highland: 33 35 — 68
Labette: Ghage Kenan 14, Bryson Dennis 13, Devin Longstreet 11, Mohamad Diallo 13, Jermond Mosley II 2, Daniel Jackson 8, Kefa Sampson 4, Pierce Thomas 4
Highland: Marquise Milton 12, Jaylen Subject 13, Zyon Smith 12, Denzel Knight 4, Kevin McGaskey 6, Aguek Deng 4, Dillon Delatte 12, Kendon Knight 3, Dallas Rufus 2