WARDSVILLE - It seems only fitting the second triple-overtime game of the season between the California Pintos and the Hallsville Indians would be decided by a triple.
California scored the game's final points when Austin Gump canned a 3-pointer with :13 left in the third extra session, then watched a last-second 3 by Hallsville miss the mark to emerge with a 68-66 win in the Class 3 District 8 Tournament.
It appeared unlikely a long-range shot would be the winner for the Pintos, especially on a night where they made just 4-of-25 from beyond the arc. But that's what they got, and after not hitting one in regulation, Gump got another 3 to go with the two he made in the first overtime session.
"Coach always says, "You're in there to shoot, so shoot the ball,' and I do the best when I'm not thinking about it," Gump said. "I looked at the rim and I knew there was a guy on me, but I just focused and it went up and it went in."
The first time around, Hallsville posted a 77-76 victory at home, so it should have been no surprise this one was tight from the start.
It was 14-all after one quarter and tied at 23 at the half. Hallsville took a 36-35 lead after three, but it was tied at 50 after regulation, at 60 after the first overtime and at 62 after the second extra session.
"We knew we were going to have a tough game with them," Gump said. "Last time we went into three overtimes, we knew they had a thing with us.
"We knew we were going to have to give it our all and we showed that no matter what, we'd go out there in every quarter and give it our all."
The similarities between the teams don't end with their scores.
"We're two evenly matched, good, well-coached teams that battle," California coach Blair Scanlon said. "We're a lot alike. It's kind of like looking in the mirror."
At the end of regulation, each team missed a shot in the paint in the final 20 seconds that could have won it.
In the first overtime, Landon Mouse canned two free throws with :11.8 left to give California a 60-57 lead. After a Hallsville timeout, the Indians missed a 3, but Ryan Long chased down the rebound, one of his game-high 16 boards, and passed it out to Sean Wooten, who sank a tying 3.
"The shot the guy hit at the end of the first overtime was incredible," Scanlon said. "I didn't see it happen, I was going to shake (the Hallsville coach's) hand.
"Our kids are resilient and so are they. I thought that shot might have done us in. A lot of teams would have given up, but our kids fought back. We're tough."
The teams appeared wiped out in the second overtime, as each managed just two points. The Pintos had the ball at halfcourt with :01.4 following a timeout and executed a pass to the rim perfectly, but what would have been the winning layup rolled off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
"The knockout punch, teams were trying to deliver it, but we just couldn't," Scanlon said. "It was kind of like a boxer going about 50 rounds, everybody's stumbling and bumbling and ready to drop. We just did enough to win the game."
With Hallsville leading 66-65 in the third overtime, California missed a shot in the paint in the final minute. But the Pintos got a reprieve with :35.3 left when the Indians turned the ball over.
That set up Gump's winning shot, and he didn't hesitate when the pressure was on.
"We've been through it before," Gump said. "Coach always stresses, "We've got six seniors and this could be the last go-round for six of you guys, so you've got to dig down and keep going.'"
Dylan Albertson racked up a double-double for California, as he had a game-high 22 points to go with 11 boards. Damon Shaw added 11 points for the Pintos, while Jaden Barr had 10.
Fifth-seeded Hallsville (13-10) got a pair of double-doubles in the loss, as Wooten had 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Long had 11 points to go with his 16 rebounds.
As their reward, the fourth-seeded Pintos will face top-seeded Eugene, the third-ranked team in Class 3, in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Thursday.
"We'll practice (today) and see what we've got," Scanlon said. "We'll get ready for Eugene, they're a great team, but we'll come fight. We've got nothing to lose, all the pressure is on them, they're the 1 seed and they're ranked. We're just going to go play basketball and whatever happens, happens."