Jan. 14—CHEYENNE — With five seconds remaining Friday, junior Joe Sawyer knocked down a deep 3-pointer to get Cheyenne Central within one point.
The Indians then pressured hard to force the ball out of bounds and more importantly, did not foul. Their efforts worked and on the ensuing inbounds, Scottsbluff, Nebraska, was called for an 5-second violation.
With time ticking down, Sawyer got the ball and dribbled between the free throw and 3-point lines. He rose high into the air and knocked down the game winning shot to lift Central to a 56-55 win.
There was never any doubt in his mind the ball was going anywhere but the bottom of the net.
"We just huddled up and said, 'We aren't losing this game,'" Sawyer said. "That was the only thing going through my head (on the final shot).
"We never let the game get too far out of hand, we just kept fighting."
Despite the win, the game did not go Central's way until the very end. It found itself trailing by double digits on multiple different occasions in the second and third quarters. But the Indians battled back each time they went down and never let the game get too far out of reach for too long.
"When your only lead of the game is the last play of the game, that is as good of a win as you are going to get," Central coach Jim Shaffer said. "We played a really good basketball team, and we hung in there."
Central looked a little slow out of the gate and had a hard time generating any offense. It also forced up a lot of shots with little success. Scottsbluff, meanwhile, played an extremely fast-paced game, made what felt like every shot and took jumped out to a nine-point lead.
This theme carried over into the next two quarters. Almost without fail, Central would get down early. The teams traded blows, but the Bearcats always managed to stay one step ahead of Central.
Part of the reason for this was due to the play of senior Kellon Harris, who finished the game with 18 points. Anytime Central made a push, Harris would knock down a 3, or make an excellent cut to the lane to restore a two-possession lead for his team.
This theme carried deep into the fourth quarter, when Central found itself down by four with under a minute to play. They were forced to play the free throw game, fouling at almost every turn, to keep the clock from ticking down.
Unfortunately for them, the Bearcats did not miss a single free throw down the stretch of the game and continued to extend the lead by two possessions.
With Sawyer's bucket at the horn, Central took its first and only lead of the game. While not the prettiest game from them, Shaffer said he was happy overall with his team's fight and determination throughout the course of the game.
"That was a great win against a great program," the first-year Central coach said. "We got down and I am really proud of our kids for hanging in there and finding a way to win it."
CENTRAL 56, SCOTTSBLUFF 55
Scottsbluff...... 21 10 13 11—55
Cheyenne Central...... 16 10 13 17—56
Scottsbluff: Reisig 6, Harris 18, Kelley 14, Talkington 11, Mickey 2, Amundsen 2, Klein 2.
Cheyenne Central: Mas. DeHoff 2, Tafoya 2, Whitworth 0, C. Brown 0, S. Shumway 0, Sawyer 24, Mas. DeHoff 4, Wiltanger 11, J. Brown 13.
Matt Atencio covers Laramie County prep sports for WyoSports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattAtencio5.