MURRAY — All Diagonal head boys basketball coach Matt Warren could do was shake his head following his team's 62-60 loss to Murray here Friday.
"I'll remember this game for the rest of my life," he said. "I've never seen anything like it, finishing a game with only three people. I couldn't be more proud of the guys, the way they battled, and against a good, good team. We were just so close. I don't know how to put it into words."
The Maroons were playing without two of their post players as senior Ryan Parrott is out with mononucleosis and sophomore Kade Means tore his meniscus, leaving Diagonal with just seven available players for Friday's Bluegrass Conference game.
Still, the undermanned Maroons appeared to be in good shape, tied at 29-29 with the Mustangs at halftime on the strength of sophomore Jacob Taylor's 17 first-half points.
At that point, Murray found itself in serious foul trouble, as starters Andrew Rider, Trey McHenry and Sam Rockhold all entered halftime with three fouls.
But, Murray head coach Darin Wookey switched to a 2-3 zone to start the second half of the game in order to protect his players from getting into further foul trouble. Meanwhile, within the first four minutes of the second half, Diagonal had two players with four fouls and two others with three fouls, trailing 44-40.
Colter Pickering hit 1-of-2 free throws and then Taylor took over again, hitting a floater in the lane, followed by a pullup 3-pointer, leading to a Murray timeout with 1:22 to go in the third with Diagonal leading 46-44.
Pickering fouled out shortly after the timeout, and Levi Jarred picked up his fourth foul. But Taylor hit another 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give Diagonal a 49-44 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
Rider banked in a 3-pointer to tie the game at 49-49 and then Diagonal sophomore Gerad Naill, who hit two big 3-pointers in the third quarter, fouled out with 6:41 to go, leaving the Maroons with just five players.
Jarred fouled out with 3:17 left in the game, giving Diagonal just four players. Rockhold knocked down both free throws for Murray, giving the Mustangs a 57-51 lead.
Rockhold led Murray with 14 points, including 12-of-14 shooting at the free throw line, and 15 rebounds. Pat Kilmer added 12 points and 10 rebounds. McHenry pitched in 13 points with eight boards.
But being down a man didn't stop Diagonal. Blake Butler hit a pullup jumper and after Rider went 1-of-2 at the line, Taylor knocked down two free throws to close the game to 58-55.
Butler drove baseline for another bucket, making it a one-point game with 1:49 to go. After a Murray timeout, McHenry hit a jumper to make it 60-57 in favor of Murray.
But Taylor stepped up one more time, dribbling to his left, the southpaw pulled up on a dime and knocked down a 3-pointer fading away from the basket to tie the game at 60-60 with his 30th point of the game.
After Fisher Decker went 1-of-2 at the free throw line, Taylor fouled out with :48.8 left in the game, leaving Diagonal with just three players on the floor. Pat Kilmer went to the line, where he made 1-of-2 attempts, making the score 62-60.
Diagonal inbounded the ball, and with about :34 remaining in the game, foreign-exchange student Ismail Omar, who had never played basketball before this year, let loose a 3-point attempt from the right wing.
Omar's shot was on a perfect line for the hoop, but sailed just long, as Murray corralled the rebound. Diagonal wasn't able to foul in the final :30 and Murray held on for a wild 62-60 win.
"I didn't know what to tell them, playing four on five and they're trying to waste time," Warren said. "What do you do? But, they found a way to do it (climb back into the game) and it was awesome. To have a chance to win a game like that with three people on the court ... if one bounce goes our way at the end, we've got it."
Wookey said he's never been a part of a game quite like this, but said it was unfortunate the game ended the way it did.
"The worst thing about it is with Taylor on the floor, they have a chance to win it no matter what, because he can beat one guy, two guys off the dribble," Wookey said. "I know it wasn't much fun for their kids to have to step off to the side and foul out, but I was glad our guys stepped up and got it done."
Diagonal falls to 1-2 for the season and 0-1 in Bluegrass Conference play with the loss, while Murray improves to 1-1 and 1-0. The Maroons host Orient-Macksburg on Tuesday in a boys and girls doubleheader, while Murray hosts Mormon Trail in a boys and girls doubleheader.
DIAGONAL (60) — Jacob Taylor 9 7-12 30, Blake Butler 3 4-4 10, Levi Jarred 3 0-0 8, Gerad Naill 2 0-0 6, Kenneth Weaselhead 0 5-9 5, Colter Pickering 0 1-2. Totals — 17 17-27 60. 3-point goals — 9 (Taylor 5, Naill 2, Jarred 2). Rebounds — 17 (Weaselhead 7, Naill 5, Taylor 4, Pickering 1). Assists — 4 (Taylor 4). Steals — 7 (Taylor 7). Blocked shots — 2 (Taylor 2). Team fouls — 28. Fouled out — Naill, Taylor, Pickering, Jarred.
MURRAY (62) — Sam Rockhold 1 12-14 14, Trey McHenry 4 4-6, 13, Pat Kilmer 4 3-5 12, Braydon Held 3 0-0 8, Thane Simmons 2 0-1 4, Fisher Decker 0 1-2 1. Totals — 18 21-34 62. 3-point goals — 5 (Held 2, McHenry 1, Rider 1, Kilmer 1). Rebounds — 51 (Rockhold 15, Kilmer 10, McHenry 8, Simmons 7, Rider 4, Held 3, Kenny Boles 2). Assists — 6 (Rider 2, Held 2). Steals — 3 (Rider 2, Rockhold 1). Blocked shots — 2 (Held 1, Simmons 1). Team fouls — 24. Fouled out — Rockhold.
Diagonal — 16 29 49 60
Murray — 12 29 44 62