A senior made the game-saving play on Senior Night. Unfortunately for Jefferson City, it wasn't a Jay who made the play.
Miller Career Academy senior Malik Brown blocked O.G. Anunoby's shot at the buzzer to preserve a 55-53 win Friday night at Fleming Fieldhouse, spoiling Jefferson City's Senior Night.
"The kid made a good play," Jefferson City head coach Blair Thompson said of Brown's block. "We did what we had to do to get one last shot off. The kid blocked the shot. It was clean, there was nothing to it. He made a good play."
After gathering a rebound with 6.7 seconds left following a miss on the front end of a one-and-one, Anunoby moved the ball up the court, momentarily lost control of the ball, regained possession and attempted a game-tying shot with his foot on the 3-point line near the top of the key. Brown jumped in to swat the shot away, giving the Phoenix the victory.
"He's one of those guys when it leaves his hands you think it's going in," Thompson said of Anunoby. "If he could have got a clean look I would have definitely been confident it would have fell."
Miller used a spurt midway through the final period to pull ahead. Rashid Bivens came up with a steal and layup to put the Phoenix ahead 49-48. It was already the seventh lead change of the fourth quarter after only having six lead changes in the first three quarters combined. After that, though, Miller never trailed again.
"This is the kind of team that's not going to shoot jump shots," Thompson said of Miller. The Phoenix attempted just three 3-pointers all game and went 14-for-21 from inside the arc in the second half. "They're going to drive the ball at you, and if you don't rotate, you'll get beat. We didn't rotate well enough. That's something we've been discussing and trying to get better at throughout the year because it's been an Achilles' heel of ours. That falls directly on the coaching staff. We didn't rotate well enough to win this game defensively. That's the bottom line."
Still, Jefferson City had a chance.
Miller eventually took a 55-50 lead with less than a minute to play before Anunoby splashed home a 3-pointer for the last of his 14 points with 19.5 seconds remaining. Jefferson City, who had played a clean half foul-wise, still had only four fouls to its name. The clock ran down to 6.7 seconds before Jefferson City was able to pick up its seventh foul. That's when the dramatic final play unfolded.
Jefferson City seemingly had the upper hand for a majority of the game. Trailing 13-12 after one quarter, the Jays used a 12-4 run to go up 24-17 on a 3-pointer from Harold Robertson Jr. with 5:07 left before halftime. Jefferson City took a 30-25 advantage into intermission.
Jefferson City led 35-29 before Miller started to make its run. The Phoenix scored six straight points to tie the game at 35 and trailed just 42-41 after three quarters. Miller opened the fourth period with a basket to take the lead, its first since the end of the first quarter, setting off a string of lead changes that eventually led to Miller's victory.
Scott Stegeman paced the Jays with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, Robertson added 12 and Anunoby completed his double-double with 13 rebounds.
Brown, in addition to being the game-saving hero, led the Phoenix with 15 points, albeit on 7-of-22 shooting. Bivens and Demetrius Stapleton added 10 points apiece.
Jefferson City (8-13) travels Tuesday to Rockhurst before ending the regular season at home Friday against Hazelwood Central.
Miller ends its regular season at 20-6.
Notes: Forty-seven days had passed since Jefferson City's last home game. The Jays were 3-6 on a nine-game road trip in that span. ... Four Jay senior basketball players were honored before the game - Stegeman, DeShon Williams, Aaron Session and Dylan Mason. "I think they represent our program well," Thompson said. "It's just a shame we couldn't get them a win here on Senior Night."