By Brian Lacy
For The Times
A furious second-half comeback had Fairview just five seconds away from forcing an improbable overtime Friday night at Joe Shults Gymnasium. That was just enough time for Butler point guard C.J. Mastin, who needed 4.8 seconds to drive from beyond half court and release a game-winning layup at the buzzer that lifted the Rebels to a 38-36 sub-regional stunner over the Aggies.
Fairview coach Greg Boatright credited Mastin for making a tough play.
“In the timeout I told our guys, ‘They’re just going to drive straight to the rim,’ and that’s exactly what they did,” Boatright said. “We got scattered out a little bit and let him get to the hole, but I’m telling you those guys are quick. What you don’t want to do is foul the guy in the act of shooting, so we were trying to contain the ball and pack the lane, but he got to the rim right at the end.”
Mastin’s layup capped a wild sequence to end the game that started when Andy Hendrix nailed his third 3-pointer of the second half with 2:40 left in the fourth quarter, giving the Aggies a 34-31 lead. Butler cut the lead to one point with 1:39 to play, making 1 of 2 free throws on consecutive possessions.
Butler needed to foul in order to send Fairview to the charity stripe and get the ball back, but the Rebels had only committed two team fouls in the second half. The Aggies got a chance to run most of the time off the clock before Butler could commit five fouls, but Hendrix couldn’t resist a wide open 3-pointer in the left corner with 45 seconds left. The shot was short, the loose ball rolled out of bounds and possession was awarded to the Rebels.
“We just got caught in the heat of the moment,” Boatright said. “That wasn’t what we were looking for. But, you get out there, and they’re physical and athletic as heck. It’s a tough job just to play keepaway for 30 seconds, much less two minutes. Everybody that played tonight made a mistake or two. I made coaching mistakes. I should have called timeout one time when we were losing control of the ball, but we couldn’t get the officials attention because it was so loud in there.”
Butler’s Terrion Hobson dribbled across midcourt, passed it to Rico Harris on the right wing and the senior guard didn’t hesitate, draining a 3-pointer to give the Rebels a 36-34 lead with 33 seconds left.
Butler had a chance to use its fouls and prevent Fairview from attempting a game-tying shot or giving up free throws, but the Aggies got a long 3-point attempt from Luke Bailey in the final 10 seconds. The ball hit the front rim, was rebounded by Hendrix 10 feet from the goal and immediately shot into the basket before he landed.
With the crowd going wild and the Aggies celebrating, Butler called a timeout to set up the final play. Butler coach Jack Doss said Mastin had three options, and he chose the right one, driving down the right side and releasing an underhand layup with two-tenths of a second remaining.
“That’s all you can ask for is to execute the play under pressure. He did a great job,” Doss said. “Coach Boatright’s kids really played well. You have to give them a lot of credit. They could have easily given up, but what great heart those young men have. We executed some plays there at the end that were tough plays, so you have to give our kids credit, too. It was a well-played game.”
Fairview made six 3-pointers in the second half, including three as part of a 9-0 run to start the second half. The Aggies needed a quick start to the third quarter after falling behind 19-8 at halftime.
“You can pick it to pieces anytime you lose,” Boatright said. “We made several mistakes, but the first mistake we made was not coming out in the first half with more confidence and poise. We dug a hole, but we came out of it and went ahead. Shoot, I’m proud of these guys.”
The Rebels took their time on offense and worked for easy shots to build a 14-4 lead after the first quarter. The Aggies scored on a Blake Parker layup 15 seconds into the game, but didn’t make another field goal until 5:15 left in the second quarter — again on a layup by Parker. During the time in between, Fairview committed eight turnovers, didn’t produce many good scoring opportunities and fell behind 16-4.
“We were playing tense, maybe not every guy out there, but we didn’t have a confident look about us,” Boatright said. “We played our tails off on defense the whole first half to hold them to 19 points. At halftime we talked about we’re going to have to play at both ends.”
While the Aggies were firing and making 3-point shots from all over the court, the Rebels didn’t take many long-distance shots, but sank three clutch 3-pointers in the second half. The first, by K.J. Goza, snapped Fairview’s 9-0 to start the third quarter. The second was by Harris, who calmly sank one from behind the arc with 4:32 left in the game, just seconds after the Aggies took a 29-28 lead on a Parker jump shot.
Boatright said the loss will sting for a while, but he appreciated the fight his team showed Friday night and throughout the season.
“I’d rather be in it until the buzzer goes off,” Boatright said. “That means you played a quality game. If you get blown out, it’s like you didn’t belong in the game. I felt like we proved we deserved to be in this game.
Hendrix led Fairview with 11 points, while Parker and Bailey added 10 each. Butler had a balanced offensive attack as Hobson, Harris, Goza and Robert Steele all scored eight points. Mastin finished the game with five points.