COLUMBIA – In a game that took almost everything his team had, it made sense for Hickman boys basketball coach David Johnson to want the ball in his best player's hands.
With 14.8 seconds remaining in the Kewpies game against Madison Prep and the score tied at 62, Johnson took a timeout.
Afterward, Kewpies junior guard Mason Murray inbounded the ball and it wound up in sophomore guard Jimmy Whitt's hands.
Whitt drove across midcourt, through the perimeter and lofted up a shot from the left side. It hit the glass and fell through the basket.
"...Coach called a timeout and basically said 'We're going to get you the ball, Jimmy,' and just told me to make a play," Whitt said.
The Bears flung the ball up the court, but they lost control of it and couldn't get off a clean shot. Game, 64-62.
It was a fitting end to a game that was a battle of athleticism between two No. 1 teams. Johnson previously described Class 3 Madison Prep as "pretty much a replica" of the Class 5 Kewpies (21-2), and the teams went blow-for-blow the entire time, stringing fast-breaks together and pushing the tempo to a feverish level.
"We've played against some really good teams. Lee's Summit West was very physical and athletic, but that was by far, probably the best team we played athletically, absolutely," Johnson said.
Hickman took a 6-4 advantage early in the first quarter, but Madison grabbed the lead and kept it for the majority of the game.
With senior forward Cecil Williams and Whitt getting into early foul trouble, Kewpies junior guard Chris Clark took charge of driving the offense. He led the team with 18 points. Johnson called Clark's energy "absolutely sensational."
"The game's going to always be in his hands, as well as Jimmy," Johnson said. "Chris is going to make good decisions. He's going to push the ball. He's going to push the pace. He's going to find guys. He's going to finish, but he's going to help us keep our tempo going. That's the one thing we tell him, 'You've got to help get that tempo and make that tempo go,' and he did that all night," Johnson said.
The first three quarters all ended with Hickman trailing. They marched back in the fourth, though, gaining possession off a Bears travel with 2:42 remaining. They found junior guard Douglas Johnson in the left corner for a huge 3-pointer.
Whitt got a steal near midcourt and put a layup in to tie the game at 58. Clark got another bucket off a fast break to give the Kewpies the lead.
The game was tied again at the 40-second mark. Whitt then ran the clock down to set the stage for the final play.
"It was a total, complete team effort, because we didn't play our best game, some of the guys struggled a little bit, but they stayed with it, they fought and they played to the zeroes," Johnson said.
Hickman plays its next game Tuesday at Lebanon in its second-to-last regular season game.