La Crosse Central persevered.
Madison La Follette fought like a tiger.
The result was one heck of a high school basketball game.
Using a 35-foot bank shot as the horn sounded in the second overtime, La Crosse Central posted a memorable 76-73 triumph over Madison La Follette in front of a large gathering in the first game of the inaugural 60Eight Tournament played Friday at Madison College.
With just :01.4 seconds left, junior Nic Williams caught the ball after an in-bounds pass, took a quick dribble and let go with a shot that hit off the glass and through the hoop, sending the River Hawks players into a wild celebration on the court.
The incredible triumph advanced La Crosse Central to today's 5:15 p.m. title game against DeForest, which got 35 points from stellar senior guard Max Weisbrod in posting a 94-85 victory over Yorkville Christian of Yorkville, Illinois, in the nightcap. Madison La Follette and Yorkville Christian play in the consolation contest at 3:30 p.m.
"What a great atmosphere and a great way to start off the tournament," La Crosse Central coach Todd Fergot said. "I'm very proud of our guys. We had some guys step up tonight. We were missing a couple of players tonight and then had two players foul out so we needed help from our bench, and we got it."
Senior Noah Compan (6-5) and junior Boston Brindley (6-0) missed the contest and both figure to be key players for the River Hawks when they return to the line-up.
Reserves Henry Meyer (6-0) and Quinn Servais (6-1) provided the River Hawks with solid play off the bench, scoring a combined eight points and grabbing a combined four rebounds.
Perhaps no player stepped up more, however, than Williams, who scored a career-high 17 points and played fearless on both ends of the court in addition to making the game winner.
"We saw that from Nic and our other guys all summer long," Fergot said. "Nic's dad (Freddie Williams) is a former player, and he and his wife taught him the game. Nic plays with a very, very high basketball IQ."
Ever-improving junior wing Bennett Fried (6-6) also turned in a special performance for the River Hawks, who improved to 5-1. Fried finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, handled the ball against intense pressure from Madison La Follette's quick guards, and had a monster dunk off a baseline drive in the first half.
"Bennett is getting stronger and has spent time in the weight room," Fergot said. "He's 6-foot-6 and still growing. He's a kid who can touch the white line on the top of the box on the backboard. He's also a very good track and field athlete in mid distances and the long jump."
Columbia, Miami (Ohio) and Northern Iowa are among the NCAA Division I programs showing interest in Fried.
Steady and physically strong senior point guard Devon Fielding (6-2) scored 22 pints, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out two assists before fouling out. Fielding was able to consistently back down defenders and score on close jumpers while also sinking a pair of three-point shots.
"This was Devon's best game after coming back from some sickness," Fergot said. "He was very good tonight."
Meanwhile, Madison La Follette coach Curtrel Robinson was more than pleased with the effort of his club against a top-notch opponent.
"We've been waiting for our team to perform like we did tonight," Robinson said. "We started to pick up our intensity on defense and got the ball moving. I felt for the first time all year, that was Lancer basketball."
Junior point guard Arhman Lewis (6-0) turned in a special night for the Lancers, sending the game into overtime with a mid-range jumper off a screen and then tying the game in the second overtime period with a baseline three-point basket with under 10 seconds left.
Lewis finished with 17 points, seven assists and a steal as he utilized his quickness and aggressiveness to continually hound the La Crosse Central guards.
"Arhman is our leader and floor general," Robinson said. "When he plays well, we play well as a team."
Madison La Follette fell to 4-1 and was playing its second overtime game in as many nights after beating Verona 66-63 on Thursday.
In addition to the strong play of Lewis, the Lancers got a big showing from seniors K'Shawn Gibbs (16 points) and Cameron Yahnke (11 points), and sophomore Quinton Lomack (11 points).
"The zone La Crosse Central played got us stagnated at times tonight," Robinson said. "It's hard to have success against a zone when you are stagnant. Gut give La Crosse Central credit. They could have folded today. This was a game that featured two teams with big aspirations this season."
In the second contest of the event, Weisbrod was nothing short of sensational, making all 15 of his free-throw attempts en route to scoring his 35 points.
Weisbrod actually outscored Yorkville Christian's Jaden Schutt, a 6-foot-6 wing headed to Duke. Schutt was very good in his own right, making 5-of-7 three-point shots and scoring a team-best 34 points.
In addition to his scoring exploits, Weisbrod also handed out nine assists and grabbed four rebounds.
The son of DeForest coach Craig Weisbrod, Max Weisbrod recently signed with NCAA Division II Northern Michigan and is averaging a robust 27.0 ppg for the Norskies, who take a 5-0 record into today's outing against La Crosse Central.
While Weisbrod was the star of the game for DeForest, the Norskies got plenty of production from a few others, including senior guard Tim Frederickson. The 5-foot-10 guard scored 21 points and drilled four three-point shots.
"Tim has been so great for us," Craig Weisbrod said. "Talk about being a senior and making the most of his opportunities ... that's Tim."
Junior Brody Hartig (6-2) was able to give Max Weisbrod a bit of a break bringing the ball up the floor against the quickness of Yorkville Christian. He also became aggressive attacking the basket in the second half as he finished with 15 points and six rebounds.
"When Brody started attacking the basket that allowed us to get Max off the ball a bit," coach Weisbrod said. "And then Josh Jansen and James Hodge really battled on the boards."
Yorkville Christian led 40-37 at intermission, but DeForest moved the ball and found openings against the Mustangs' defense in the second half. The Norskies shot 65 percent in the second half, making 20 of 31 field-goal attempts.
"Yorkville puts a lot of pressure on you, but I was proud of how our guys responded," coach Weisbrod said. "They didn't back down at all."
DeForest played without seniors Deven Magli (6-2) and Nolan Hawk (6-5), both returning starters from last year's club that went 16-6. Coach Weisbrod said both key players are expected to return from injuries in the near future.