Finding a four-leafed clover.
Seeing a double rainbow.
Accidentally getting a second pizza for free because the driver mistakenly brought an extra one to your house.
These are the rarest of good fortunes, but not quite as rare as witnessing a High School Basketball game that featured over 200 points. Add in that it went to triple overtime, was decided by a single basket and both teams are bitter rivals just across the street from one another… and the fans in the Hillsboro/Festus area were treated to the unicorn of basketball games on Friday night.
The 16-3 Tigers made the quick bus ride to Hillsboro to take on 14-6 Hawks just like they have so many times before, but no one saw this coming. After drama-soaked buzzer beaters, big threes, some history being made and a trio of overtime periods, the Hawks came away with a ridiculous 105-102 victory. But let’s start at the beginning.
The first half was an exciting one, but tame in comparison to the rest of the game. Still, the story needs a foundation. The game kicked off with Festus having a smooth start, with Arhmad Branch draining eight of the Tigers’ 17 points, en route to a 17-11 lead and a big, big night for Branch.
Hillsboro fired back in the second though with 19 and held the Tigers to 13. Noah Holland came alive for the Hawks with a pair of threes and two buckets to pace the scoring, but Branch wasn’t done either, as he ripped off seven more points, including a big shot from downtown.
That knotted the score at 30-30 and chased the two teams into their respective locker rooms. No one had any idea what was in store for the second half… and beyond.
Hillsboro came out hot in the third with Holland putting the team on his back. He poured in 16 points just by himself and was on his way to a historic night. The Hawks doubled up the Tigers 24-12 and took a commanding lead into the fourth quarter. By all accounts this one should have been over.
But the fourth quarter was an adventurous one. Especially if you are a Tiger fan. Festus, down 18 points, pulled off one of the most miraculous comebacks in High School history. They scored 34 points in the fourth, led by Branch’s insane 21, and had a slim-to-none chance turn into unprecedented glory.
Branch nailed a three and then when the ball went back to Hillsboro, they went for the homerun pass down the court. Holland chucked it up, but it was picked off and Logan Cash snatched it, raced to the top of the arc and then threw up a Hail Mary as the clocked expired.
The twine was tickled and the Festus fans rushed the court in support. The buzzer-beater made the score 76-76 and regulation was over, sending a frenzied crowd into overtime(s).
Each overtime period is just four minutes at this level and both teams made the most of it in the first. Sadly though, Festus would take a critical loss. Branch hit a huge three to take the lead, but immediately fouled out on the ensuing possession. The deep make gave him (at the time) a game-high 48 points. He would have to watch from the sidelines from here on out though.
Gridlocked at 85-85, both teams would enter into the second OT, and this was a period of mistakes on both ends. Each team only managed four points, and even with Festus having a golden chance to win it, they came up short after a missed attempt in the waining seconds. Carter Roth was oh so close, but his shot didn’t fall. That set up an unprecedented third overtime.
Hillsboro was charged up after finding new life in the rarest of rare 7th “quarters” in the game. The Hawks started scoring in bunches, and Holland was back on his game, reaching 50 points with a free throw, and suddenly Hillsboro was up by seven. It seemed like impending doom for Festus, but the Tigers rebounded and grinded their way back. Cash hit a huge three to make it a two-point game (103-102), but Hillsboro had possession and the upper hand.
They drained one more bucket to extend their lead to three and the desperation three-pointer was Festus’s only answer. Fate had other ideas on this one though, and the bucket didn’t fall, giving the Hawks a bonkers 105-102 victory.
Holland tied a school record with his 50 points, matching Mark Steighorst, who last made that mark in 1971. It was truly one of the great performances of the season. Or the last 50+ years if you’re a Hawks fan.
As for the Tigers, Branch led the way with an incredible 48 points, and if not for fouling out, this game might have ended very differently. He was a beast in the fourth quarter and changed the game significantly with his efforts.
Not to be undone though, was Cash, who had a heck of a game outside of his incredible buzzer-beater in the fourth. He would wind up with 31 points, and pretty much carried the team in the three overtimes after Branch had fouled out.
It was a game for the ages, and even though the Tigers lost, they still had the respect of their Head Coach. Jason Therrell commented on the night, saying, “Incredible performances by both teams in a great high school atmosphere. On our side Logan Cash and Arhmad Branch had awesome games and scored a ton of points. Credit to Hillsboro for a great game and getting the win. Tough loss for us and we will try to move forward to next week.”
Next week the Tigers will host the Blue Knights on Tuesday, while the Hawks will travel to Cape Notre Dame.