He’s not your average Joe.
Joe Ganger hit a pair of free throws with 1.2 seconds left on the clock to lift David Crockett to a 51-50 win over Daniel Boone in the Hardee’s Classic consolation bracket semifinals.
The Trailblazers’ Ryan Gaitor made one last heave behind the half-court line, but the shot bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
With the game on the line, Pioneers head coach Richard Tarlton said there was no one he would rather have with the ball in his hands than Ganger.
“I had no doubt he would make them when he went to the line,” Tarlton said. “He’s the best free throw shooter I’ve got.”
Ganger added that he welcomed the challenge of going to the foul line with a win over his team’s archrival hanging in the balance.
“I wanted to be in a pressure situation like that -- on your home court playing Boone in a big game,” Ganger said. “I wanted the ball right there.”
On the flip side, the Trailblazers (2-2) led most of the way and had numerous chances to put the game away in the closing seconds. Boone missed six consecutive free throws before Ganger stepped to the line and hit the winning pair.
“It’s more than aggravating,” Daniel Boone head coach Ryan Arnold said. “I think we missed eight (free throws) in the last 20.8 seconds. There is just no excuse for it.
“We can’t make the excuse we’re a young team because these kids have been shooting free throws since they started playing basketball. That’s the easiest shot in basketball and it never changes.”
Boone took a 12-9 lead in the first quarter on a 3-point goal by Ryan Gaitor and led the rest of the first half. The ‘Blazers pushed the lead to 37-29 before an 8-0 run by the Pioneers. Jordan Stout ended the run with a 3-point goal, and the score remained 40-37 until the end of the third quarter.
The Trailblazers led by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter but Crockett kept battling back as sophomore post Tyler Page ended with 15 points and seven rebounds.
“I had to bring my A-game,” Page said. “That was a tough team we played, but we thought we were going to win. We were fighting too hard (not to win).”
Anthony Campbell, playing both at guard and forward, added 11 points and a team-best nine rebounds for the Pioneers.
Gaitor led the ‘Blazers with 15 points. Dillon Reppart was the only other Boone player to hit double figures with 11 points, although Stanley Valentine and Jacob Littleton did good work on the boards with 10 and eight rebounds, respectively.
Still, their efforts weren’t enough to hold off a determined bunch from Crockett.
“We started off real slow, but we had to fight to stay in the game,” Ganger said. “We were struggling, not hitting the shots we normally hit, but we had some players step up huge tonight.”
Even Crockett’s head coach was able to forgive his team for its slow start and trailing most of he game.
“We didn’t have the intensity at the beginning, but as the game wore on, the intensity level built,” Tarlton said. “We stepped up to the challenge, especially in the second half, and in the end, it came out in our favor.
“We weren’t able to win the tournament after Tuesday night, but we still got a win over Boone out of it.”
Cherokee 55, Sullivan South 49
The Rebels (1-3) rallied from an eight-point deficit in the final period to take a one-point lead against the Chiefs (2-1). However, they weren’t able to hold on as Cherokee pulled back ahead for the win.
James Scales led the Chiefs with 18 points, followed by Tanner Trent with 13 and Ty Ryans with 10.
Ryan Headrick was the leading scorer for South with 14 points. AJ Hutchins tallied a dozen points, while Michael Harr and Austin English each added 10 in the loss.