MURRAY — On the brink of heading into overtime, and the postseason dreams of Murray’s 21-1 boys basketball team in serious jeopardy at home, coach Darin Wookey decided it was best to let things play out.
An upstart Martensdale-St. Marys team, coming in at 12-10, had tied Tuesday’s Class 1A District 12 semifinal game at 47-47 on a drive by Gage Gavin with eight seconds left.
Mustang assistant Danny Jensen turned to Wookey and asked if he wanted to take a timeout.
“Heck no,” Wookey responded. “We’re going to let him go the full length of the floor and see what happens.”
Not a bad plan when the guy with the ball is senior Austin Halls, a 2,000-point scorer, the state’s all-time steals leader and one of the top assist leaders. A playmaker.
Flying full-speed up the middle of the court, Halls saw teammate Pat Kilmer — who made a clutch tip-in at :39 to put Murray up 46-45 — running down the right side of the court. Several Blue Devil defenders started to converge on Halls to slow his progress.
“I thought I had a pass to Patrick on a back-door cut to the hole, because he beat his guy down the floor,” Halls said. “All I had was a defender in the way, so I thought if I jumped, he’d step up. And he did. By that time I was getting slapped on the wrist, and just followed through (shooting motion).”
With three seconds left, Halls was sent to the free throw line after Trent Verwers was called for the shooting foul in 3-point territory.
Halls missed the first attempt, but made the next two. Martensdale-St. Marys tried to quickly advance the ball up the right side of the floor, but there was a slight fumble on the pass and the buzzer sounded before a shot could be taken.
Murray advanced with a 49-47 victory to the district final matchup with Mount Ayr, scheduled Thursday at Truro. Mount Ayr knocked off Lamoni, 44-40, in Lamoni.
“Words can’t express it,” senior Cody Scroggie said, upon seeing Verwers whistled for the foul against Halls. “He’s a confident free throw shooter and we all have trust in him. As a senior, you don’t want to see your year end. As hard as we’ve worked since sixth grade.”
The game was close because Murray couldn’t convert steals to points in the first half. A barrage of missed layups and 0-for-10 shooting from behind the arc contributed to 7-of-33 shooting from the field in taking a 19-16 halftime lead.
“The one thing we did praise our team on at halftime was their defense,” Wookey said. “Give Martensdale-St. Marys credit, they came out and hit some big shots in the second half and just hung around. I just kept looking out there at all of our seniors, and I thought they’re going to get this done. I just know they are.”
Scroggie, all-state receiver who signed a National Letter of Intent this week to play football at Graceland University, got a hot hand in the second half with 15 of his team-high 18 points. Halls, meanwhile, shot 8-10 at the free throw line in finishing with 14 points.
Martensdale-St. Marys coach Joe Franey was disappointed after the game about such a critical foul call at the end. He said his team carried out the game plan.
“After everything they let go, and then call that,” he said, shaking his head. “Overtime is where it should have been. We defended them much better than when we played two weeks ago, and we were more aggressive to the hole.”
Franey said Kilmer’s timely putback on Scroggie’s miss with 39 seconds left was the key. Moments later Murray’s Andrew Rider stole the ball and was fouled, making one free throw for a 47-45 Mustang lead.
“We’re up one and they get that rebound and putback with about 30 seconds left,” Franey said. “If we get the rebound there, who knows? They’d have to foul us, being up one.”
The Mustangs found a way to survive and advance. Next up is a talented Mount Ayr team that has been bolstered late in the season by the return of post player Jacob Sobotka from a football ankle injury.
“They have (Braydee) Poore, (Jake) Still and Sobotka, all those guys are good players we grew up playing against,” Halls said. “We know Mount Ayr, on any given night, can beat anyone else. If we shoot better, we’re pretty confident. Our defense is playing well.”
Wookey said it’s a tougher challenge awaiting his eighth-ranked team than when the Mustangs opened with a 64-50 victory over the Raiders on Nov. 26.
“Mount Ayr is a good ballclub,” he said. “With Sobotka back, they are even more dangerous than they were. We’re going to have to play. We will not shoot that bad again.”
The Mustangs missed their first 15 3-point attempts before Scroggie converted from behind the arc with 1:45 left in the third period. For the game, Murray was 2-20 on treys, and only 31 percent from the field overall.
The winner of the district final takes on the District 11 winner of 11th-ranked Ankeny Christian vs. Guthrie Center Saturday at Urbandale.
MARTENSDALE-ST. MARYS (47) — Gage Gavin 6 2-4 17, Garrett Gehringer 5 3-6 13, Miller Hatcher 1 3-4 5, Eddy Kraber 1 2-4 5, Trent Verwers 1 0-0 3, Luke Anctil 1 0-0 2, Connor Dunn 1 0-0 2. Totals — 16 10-145 47. 3-point goals — 5 (Gavin 3, Kraber 1, Verwers 1). Team fouls — 17. Fouled out — Hatcher.
MURRAY (49) — Cody Scroggie 6 4-6 18, Austin Halls 3 8-10 14, Sam Rockhold 3 0-0 6, Matt Johnston 2 0-0 4, Andrew Rider 0 3-8 3, Eddie Otto 1 0-0 2, Pat Kilmer 1 0-0 2. Totals — 16 15-24 49. 3-point goals — 2-20 (Scroggie 2). FG shooting — 16-51(31.4 percent). Rebounds — 25 (Johnston 7, Halls 4, Rockhold 4). Assists — 5 (Halls 4). Steals — 17 (Halls 6, Rider 6, Scroggie 4). Blocked shots — 3 (Kilmer 2, Johnston 1). Turnovers — 11. Team fouls — 16. Fouled out — None.
Mart.-St. Marys — 8 16 28 47
Murray — 10 19 31 49