In the last 30 seconds of Friday's regular season finale, Maryville turned a potentially devastating defeat into the most joyous of wins and ensured its four seniors of an unforgettable ending to their home careers.
Trailing by two after being up as many as 10 in the second half, Maryville scored twice in a 21 second stretch and withstood a last-second miss by Bert Ernst to pull out a 58-56 victory over Savannah in an epic Senior Night clash at MHS Gymnasium.
Senior guard Jonathan Baker scored the game-tying basket with 24.8 seconds left, and after a Savage turnover, assisted on the game-winner in the closing seconds to junior Trent Nally that set off the first of two court-storming celebrations from the Maryville student section.
"It's definitely a great memory to leave with," said Baker, the school's eighth all-time leading scorer. "It doesn't hit you that you're never going to play game on this floor again. After a while, it will. Us seniors have talked about the memories we're going to have here and that's just the cherry on top right there. Great student section. Great crowd. And to end it on a play like that, it was awesome."
The win was Maryville's third straight in a Friday night home game and completed a perfect 6-0 home slate
Additionally, the Hounds (17-7, 4-3) settled the score from a painful 40-37 road loss to the Savages Jan. 18 in a game that was also decided in the final minute.
"We made a couple more plays down there. Tonight, they made a couple more plays down the stretch than we did," said Savannah head coach Nick Kemerling. "You got to give coach (Mike) Kuwitzky and his staff credit for that. It was a good game. Both teams played hard. It was a physical game. That's the way the MEC is."
Ernst, who scored a game-high 26 points, put the Savages ahead 56-54 with under a minute left on a contested three.
Maryville got it tied at 56 on a shot by Baker off the glass, but the Savages still had the ball with a chance to hold for the last shot of regulation.
In the process of trying to stall, the Savages were pressured into a turnover that led to a transition opportunity for Maryville.
Baker drove down the right side of the floor, and as three Savages converged on him, he spotted Nally free underneath for an uncontested layup.
"I was definitely open-minded," said Baker. "As I crept closer, they were all getting into defensive position, so I knew it was going to be hard to get off a shot. I saw (Treyton) Burch trailing on the right hand side and it was one of those things where I saw Nally on the lower block right at end. I was able to get the pass over to him as they converged on me. It was an awesome play."
Page 2 of 4 - After Nally's go-ahead basket, the clock ran out before Savannah inbounded the ball, and the orange-clad Hound student section rushed the floor thinking the game over. They were quickly asked to return to the stands after the officials ruled that Savannah had taken a timeout and 4.2 seconds remained.
Inbounding from its own baseline, Savannah got the ball to Ernst running up the sideline. He eluded two Hound defenders and got off a clean look from a few feet beyond the three-point line that drew iron but missed wide.
Right as it did, the Hound students came flooding back on the floor, and this time, were allowed to remain.
"As far as the intensity goes for an entire game, and the fans coming out, that was definitely one of a kind," said Baker.
Maryville just missed hitting 60 points for the third straight home game, but finished with 21 more than they scored at Savannah in the previous meeting.
Once again facing a 2-3 zone, the Hounds shot better than 50 percent in the first three quarters, went 10-13 at the foul line and came up with some key second chance opportunities in the second half.
The only problem area for the Hounds was 19 turnovers.
"I thought we stood around way too much there," said Maryville head boys coach Mike Kuwitzky. "I didn't think we stood around as much. I thought we turned it over too much, but I do think we were more active. I thought we moved better than we did down there."
Another major factor behind Maryville's offensive success was the play of senior forward Tyler Kenkel.
One of the Hounds that struggled in the last meeting, Kenkel stepped up big on his Senior Night, scoring a career-high 23 points.
He nailed a pair of second half of three's, including one in the fourth quarter that ended a 14-0 Savannah run.
"I was just feeling good and had confidence," said Kenkel. "Coaches have been telling us to keep shooting, so I just stepped up and shot."
Baker finished with 16 points, scoring 10 of those during a 4-4 start in the first quarter.
Ty Hilsabeck added seven points. Jacob Cacek, Trent Nally and Treyton Burch all had four.
The starting trio of Baker, Nally and Burch picked up their fourth fouls in the third quarter, forcing all three to the bench for longer stretches than normal.
Ernst was largely responsible for Maryville's foul troubles, driving the ball to hole with reckless abandon throughout the game.
He got to the foul line 13 times on his own but made just eight. As a team, the Savages were 14-20.
Page 3 of 4 - "They just attacked our defense," said Baker. "We were sluggish at times on defense."
Not known as a great outside shooting team, Savannah supplemented their frequent trips to the line with eight three-pointers, many of which came when the Hounds were threatening to pull away.
Ernst and senior guard Tyler Wilt (14 points) combined to make seven.
Savannah's three-point barrage began after the Hounds got off to a roaring start.
They scored the game's first 10 points and led 16-3 with 3:10 left in the first quarter.
The Hounds hit seven of their first 10 shots and gave up only a three to Ernst during that span.
Maryville finished the opening quarter up 20-9, with all nine of Savannah's points scored by Ernst.
The Hounds lost some of their offensive rhythm in the second quarter, turning it over seven times, and their lead began to dwindle.
A three by Wilt and a three-point play opportunity by Ernst made it 27-22 with 2:08 left in the half.
Ernst made a pair of free throws with 20.3 seconds left that reduced Maryville's halftime lead to 31-27.
The Savages got to within three in the third quarter before the Hounds stretched their lead back to 10 with a 6-0 spurt.
Cacek was big during this stretch, scoring a pair of inside baskets and kicking out an offensive rebound to Kenkel for three.
With the Hounds up 47-37 and threatening to blow the game open, Savannah scored the next 14 points to go in front by four. Maryville turned it over six times during that span and went more than six minutes without scoring.
Zane Wilt gave Savannah its first lead with 5:30 left and a pair of Austin Nolan free throws made it 51-47 with 4:18 left.
All the sudden, the Hounds were in serious danger.
"I was thinking in my head if we lose like this, we'll never live it down and we'll be thinking about it for the rest of our lives, so we got to go out with a win," said Kenkel.
Kenkel ended Savannah's run with a gutsy three from the top of the key three that Kuwitzky said was the "momentum shot of the game."
Savannah scored next on a difficult reverse layup by Dalton Duane, but Baker answered to make it 53-52.
This score held for nearly two minutes with the Hounds missing seven consecutive shots to take the lead, four around the hoop on one possession.
Key stops kept it a one-point game, and a reach-in foul by Nolan sent Kenkel to the line with 1:10 left for a one-and-one.
Page 4 of 4 - He made both to give the Hounds a 54-53 lead.
Savannah re-took the lead on Ernst's three, but the Hounds got it back with 4.2 seconds left and emerged victorious.
"It shows us that we can play in close games and that we're going to do that in districts hopefully when we play Cameron in finals," said Kenkel.
A No. 2 seed in Class 3 District 16, Maryville opens the tournament tonight at 5:45 p.m. against No. 7 seed Plattsburg.
Maryville's remaining path to a district title could include a semifinal game with Bishop LeBlond and a finals rematch with Cameron.
Maryville split two regular season meetings with LeBlond and lost both to Cameron.
The Dragons have knocked Maryville out of districts each of the last two years.
"We're going into it knowing we're going to win it," said Baker. "There's no doubt on our team right now. We have high expectations and realistic expectations. We've played Cameron close the last two times. We feel like it's our turn. We definitely have the last two years in the back of our heads."