If Redmond boys’ basketball coach Jeff Larson looks like he’s aged a bit since last Friday, no one can really blame him.
His Mustangs pulled out a second straight last-second win, including Tuesday night’s thrilling 42-41 win against Roosevelt on the road in a 4A Kingco playoff opener.
Redmond’s Chris Harrington, whose buzzer-beating layup knocked off Eastlake, 49-48, on Feb. 13, came to the rescue again for the Mustangs Tuesday night.
The senior guard calmly drained two free throws to give the Mustangs a 42-39 lead with 18.2 seconds left in the game.
On the next possession, Roosevelt’s Louis Voorhees was fouled beyond the 3-point arc, which gave the Roughriders a chance to tie the game, but Voorhees was only able to convert two of three, cutting the lead to 42-41.
Roosevelt got the ball back after Redmond missed two free throws with 5.2 seconds left, but junior Kai Hoyt’s desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer fell short.
Down 10 early in the fourth quarter, the Mustangs closed the game with an improbable 17-6 run to seal the heart-stopping win.
“That took so much heart, and so much courage,” said Larson on his team’s incredible comeback. “They never stopped believing. I just couldn’t be more proud of them.”
And the smiles on the faces of the Mustang players as they left the gym told it all.
“This win was huge,” said Harrington, who scored a game-high 23 points. “It’s great to get our first Kingco (tournament) win this year and keep moving on.”
The Mustangs take on top-seeded Garfield at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night — after the Reporter’s deadline — at Juanita High in a winner-to-state game. If they beat the Bulldogs, Redmond will play Friday, Feb. 27 at 8:15 p.m. in the Kingco championship game at Juanita High. If they lost to Garfield, the Mustangs will play Tuesday, Feb. 24 at 8:15 p.m. in loser-out game at Juanita High.
Garfield has beaten the Mustangs twice this season. The Bulldogs beat the Mustangs, 67-66, in a double overtime game on Jan. 31. Garfield also knocked off the Mustangs, 50-33, in Feb. 6 contest, which was stopped with just over 5 minutes left because of a brawl between the two teams, started by a Redmond fan.
AN IRONIC TWIST
The last time Redmond played Roosevelt, great free throw shooting by the Roughriders did the Mustangs in during the fourth quarter.
This time around, the tables were turned as Roosevelt got into foul trouble and sent Redmond to the line.
With 2:19 left, Harrington, who hit six of seven from the stripe in the fourth quarter, nailed a free throw to complete a three-point play and tie the game at 39-39. On the Mustangs’ next possession, Harrington hit one of two free throws to give his team a a 40-39 lead. Harrington then delivered the two game-winning free throws moments later to give Redmond a 42-39 lead as the Mustangs hung on for the win.
“I knew we had to knock them down,” said Harrington on his key free throws. “They were going to come back with a good shot, they’ve got some guys that can (shoot), so to go up three would have been huge for us.”
Larson said he was confident Harrington would come through in the clutch.
“Chris has hit big shots all year, and unless anybody’s ever been there they don’t know how hard that is,” Larson said of Harrington’s clutch shooting. “That’s why you play through elementary school, in junior high, in the spring and summer. It’s not luck, it’s not accident. They’ve earned it.”
Redmond senior point Will Ellis put in 10 for the Mustangs, who held Roosevelt point guard River Voorhees to 12 points after he scored 21 the last time the two teams met on Jan. 27.
“This win does give us confidence, but our goal is to really try to take it one at a time,” Larson maintained. “We’ve just got to keep moving.”
TROUBLE IN THE THIRD
Going into the locker room at halftime, neither team was shooting particularly well.
Redmond was 8 for 18 from the field including just one of six from long range, and the Roughriders were even worse from the field, shooting 8 for 21.
But great defense by the Roughriders prevented the Mustangs from getting many good looks at the basket in the third quarter, as Redmond was held to just four points in the period on 2-of-9 shooting.
Early in the fourth, the Roosevelt lead was stretched to 10 when Hoyt scored to make it 35-25.
Then it was as if someone lit a fire under the Mustangs.
The green and gold started to attack aggressively and pressure the young Roughriders, who have had a history of folding under pressure late in ball games.
Redmond uncorked an 11-0 run to take a 36-35 lead. First it was Harrington, and then Ellis who scored with a brilliant drive and layin. Then Justin Alexander responded with a three-ball to cut the deficit to 35-32. The 11-0 run was capped by an Justin Alexander layup off a steal by 6-foot-5 senior forward Abdul Tufa with 3:20 left.
From there, Harrington’s heroics at the charity stripe gave the Mustangs the thrilling comeback win.
“These young men deserve so much credit for what they’ve been through, what we ask of them,” Larson said. “They never quit.”