By Robert Tomlinson
VICKSBURG — Sometimes, magical things can come from the most unexpected of events.
Just ask Vicksburg’s Jordan Diekman.
With less than 25 seconds to go in the fourth quarter and down by two in a tight contest between Diekman’s Bulldogs and the Three Rivers Wildcats, the 6-foot-2 junior guard/forward received a long pass from midcourt by Jaxson Wilson, drove down from the left wing toward the basket, drew contact while jumping up and fading away from a Wildcats defender, floated the ball toward the bucket, and watched it drop through off the glass as a foul was called on the defender with just 17 seconds left.
The Bulldogs’ bench erupted, Diekman drained the foul shot, and that proved to be the difference in a 52-51 Vicksburg win at home against Three Rivers in a Wolverine Conference boys’ basketball matchup Friday night.
All that, both Diekman and head coach Zach Wierenga said after the game, came on a broken play.
“It wasn’t the designed play, but we made it work,” Diekman said after the game. “Jaxson comes up, I went up for the pass, got it, thankfully the guy overbit, and I just saw green grass down, and I just went. I was hoping to get to the line at least, but to make it was even greater.”
“I kind of expected it to go in, but it was not what we drew up; that was the surprise,” Wierenga said. “We were trying to work to the other side and get the ball to Mitch Beyer, but it just didn’t happen that way. We drew it up a couple timeouts ago, kept going back, said we want to do that, and we just got out of it.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games the last couple of years, and it’s good that we closed it out, found ways to win and got stops when we needed it. It feels awesome.”
Three Rivers did have their opportunity to win the game in the final second after Diekman’s wild shot, but a last-second three at the buzzer by Luis Warmack went off the rim, ending what was a back-and-forth contest between the two teams.
With the win, Vicksburg goes to 2-4, while Three Rivers drops to 1-5.
Vicksburg got out to a quick start on the evening, going up 8-2 thanks in part to a three-pointer by Wilson and layups by Carter Brown and Andrew Gless. Brown would sit for a majority of the first half after receiving a technical foul with five and a half minutes to go in the first quarter.
Three Rivers would make a surge to get back within one point and make it a 12-11 game with nearly three minutes to go in the first quarter, with a bucket and two free throws from Lamonta Stone and two putbacks and a free throw by Zander Barth. However, Vicksburg would pull away to make it 19-13 by the end of the quarter, highlighted by a three-pointer from Beyer.
Three Rivers would outscore Vicksburg by two points in what was a low-scoring second quarter. The ‘Cats would get a pair of free throws each from Warmack and Jace Gray, while Barth got a short jumper to make it another one-point game, 20-19 with five minutes to go in the first half. Mason Awe would round out the nine points for Three Rivers in the quarter with a three-pointer. Despite cold shooting in the second quarter – the team scored only seven points and missed plenty of shots – the Bulldogs led by a 26-22 score at the end of the half.
The ‘Cats outscored Vicksburg 17-10 in the third quarter, notching their first lead of the game late in the frame when Warmack hit a three-pointer to make it 35-34 Three Rivers. They’d stretch the lead to five points after a Heston Saunders layup and a Stone bucket to make it 39-34, but a floater from Vicksburg’s Beyer trimmed down the lead in the final minute, making it 39-36 for Three Rivers going into the final stanza.
In the fourth quarter, Vicksburg would get the lead back on three-pointers by Wilson and Brody Deloof to make it 42-39. Three Rivers would get three straight layups to give them the lead again 45-42 with less than five minutes to go. The ‘Cats would get in foul trouble late in the game, notching seven fouls in the quarter in total, but Vicksburg went cold from the line, shooting just 6-for-13 in the quarter, but it was redeemed with Diekman’s game-winning free throw.
Those free throws kept the score close, as TR went cold as well from the field, scoring only six points in the last four-and-a-half minutes of the game, thanks to a layup from Gray, a layup from Barth and a floater from Stone that made it 51-49 with 57 seconds to go, setting up Diekman’s heroics. The ‘Cats also went cold at the foul stripe, not hitting a single free throw in their four attempts in the quarter, all four coming with less than a minute to go.
In the scorebook, Vicksburg was led by Diekman, Beyer and Marchese with nine points each. Diekman added two rebounds, two blocks and two assists; Beyer had three rebounds and four assists; and Anthony Marchese had 16 rebounds, five blocks and two assists. Drew Gless added three points, eight rebounds and four blocks.
Barth led Three Rivers with 16 points and nine rebounds, Stone had 12 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Warmack had 10 points and four rebounds on the evening. Saunders had four points and six rebounds, Gray added four points, five assists and five rebounds, Awe had three points, and Alijah Ballentine had a bucket and a rebound.
“We fought, we played hard. We did things we’ve been talking about, how to play the game of basketball, and you could see those moments for us. We just got unlucky at the end, couldn’t get the ball to roll over the rim at the end, couldn’t get that one little rebound. That’s part of the game; sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way,” Three Rivers Head Coach Brian Burg said after the game. “I’m proud of the way we came out, we played hard, and we did some good stuff.”
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.