HINCKLEY – Tate Sanderson returned from an injury he suffered two weeks ago to lead Hinckley-Big Rock to a 54-51 upset of the Mooseheart Red Ramblers in the semifinal round of the Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional.
“It feels great,” Sanderson said. “I was a little worried I wasn’t coming back here. So, honestly, it feels really good to come back here and get a win here.”
Sanderson, his eye still red and the scar still prominent from the elbow he took to the face against Indian Creek, put up 19 points to lead all scorers.
“I’m really proud of him,” Royals coach Seth Sanderson said. “For the first two weeks he couldn’t get up and down. He couldn’t have any contact. For the first week and a half, he looked like a boxer.”
The Royals led most of the way but had to hold their breath as the final 3-point attempt by the Ramblers went wide at the buzzer.
“We’re thrilled with the win,” Seth Sanderson said. “It’s been a few years since we’ve got [a regional] win, so to get two and to get to play for a regional championship [is great]. It’s been five or six years since we’ve played like we’ve had that excitement.”
With six seconds left in the game after the Ramblers hit on a three-point play by Alfonso Bailey to cut the Royals’ lead to one point at 52-51.
The Ramblers fouled the Royals’ Spencer Brown on the next possession to give him a one-and-one bonus at the free-throw line. Brown swished both free throws to put the Royals up by three, forcing the Ramblers to attempt a 3-point shot.
The teams went back and forth for the entire second half, with no team leading by more than four points.
The Ramblers briefly took the lead, 32-31, on a layup by Nelson Doe with 5:41 left in the third period, but Tate Sanderson came right back to put the Royals back up on the next possession.
Doe went down and scored again, but Brian Bohannon muscled in two straight baskets, and the Royals never surrendered the lead.
“You got to keep fighting,” Bohannon said. “It’s just the game of basketball.”
By the numbers: For the Royals, Bohannon had 14 points, and Brown had 10 points.
The Royals will face Newark at 7 p.m. Friday at home for the regional title.
Beyond the stats: With less than a minute to play in the game and the Royals up by one point, Bohannon dove on a loose ball like he was recovering a fumble, allowing the Royals to call a timeout and steal a possession from the Ramblers.
They said it: “It was a loose, ball so I had to go get it,” Bohannon said. “I didn’t want them to get the ball, so it was either me or the team and I figured the team was more important.”
Up next: The Royals will face conference foe Newark Friday at home at 7 p.m. for the regional title.