AFTON —Trevor Barnett's 3-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer on an out-of-bounds play to force overtime seemed to be a momentum boost for the East Union boys Monday night.
The Eagles were looking for better luck in the extra session against Mormon Trail to open Class 1A District 12 play, than the 53-50 overtime loss to Orient-Macksburg on Friday.
Barnett ignited cheering screams in the Eagles' gym when he swished his late 3-pointer after curling off a screen from the low block, receiving the inbounds pass from just in front of the East Union bench. That tied the score 42-42, as East Union had seemingly recovered from a stagnant third quarter.
The Eagles (4-17) had bolted to a 10-point halftime lead (28-18), only to see the entire margin disappear in Mormon Trail's 13-3 third quarter. The Saints led 42-39 when East Union took the ball out of bounds with just 1.2 seconds left.
Cole Campbell had just missed a previous 3-point try with under eight seconds to play, but the Eagles regained the ball and coach Thad Tussey set up the tying play.
"We had just run our default side out-of-bounds play, so I didn't want to run the same thing," Tussey said. "We did some screen the screener action after Trevor started on the ballside block. He hit it."
But East Union's execution wasn't as sharp in the overtime period, and some crucial free throw misses paved the way for Mormon Trail to advance with a 48-45 victory.
The Saints (11-10) meet 21-0 Lamoni at 8 p.m. Thursday in Lamoni, after Lenox takes on Diagonal at 6:30 p.m.
"Lamoni will be a tough one," Mormon Trail coach Aaron Palmer said. "When we started overtime tonight, I told them we're a better team than they are, and we just have to go out in the next four minutes and show them that we are. In the second half we slowed down and set up the offense better. We seemed pretty flustered in the first half."
Those opening 16 minutes went almost exactly as Tussey had designed. The Eagles led 10-9 after one period and 28-18 at the break.
"Our scouting report worked in the first half," Tussey said. "We wanted to full-court pressure number 21 (Kelton Stansbery) and make him give up the ball sooner than he wanted to. He's their best player."
Stansbery finished with 18 points, many on quick drives into the lane on the fast break. Seniors Barnett and Jesse Akers finished with 18 and 12, respectively, for the Eagles, who shot only 8-of-15 at the free throw line.
"Our problem is three points in the third quarter," Tussey said. "We got outscored 13-3 and there goes your 10-point lead. We went four minutes without scoring in the third quarter. Shooting 50 percent from the free throw line, that's not going to win you games."
Tussey was disappointed that the Eagles couldn't hold a one-point lead with under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter, after Dustin Hoyt's free throw created a 45-44 advantage.
With 42 seconds left, an East Union baseline shot missed, and after the Saints took over possession, Stansbery scored a layup to put Mormon Trail ahead 46-45 with 32 seconds left.
Then East Union turned it over at the 15-second mark, requiring fouls to stop the clock. Jakob Horton sank both free throws to make it 48-45 in Mormon Trail's favor.
Barnett wasn't able to recreate the earlier magic, missing from 3-point range at :04. A quick foul after the rebound gave the Eagles one last chance after Kale Horton missed twice at the line for Mormon Trail.
But there was only 1.9 seconds left, with the length of the floor to go. Barnett attempted to pass to Campbell at halfcourt, but Stansbery deflected the pass as time ran out on the first Eagles' season under Tussey, assisted by Dave Campbell.
"You know, we had the one-point lead and we were going to possess the ball, make them foul or take a shot in the lane," Tussey said. "They have to foul. We gave them the ball back. Then when we were down three we played catch too long. I thought Akers was open coming over those screens and I'd like to get him the ball more."
Tussey said there are things to build on after his first campaign, but he loses his floor leader in Barnett along with Akers, Hoyt and Sean Schmitz.
Among the returning players are Monday starters Brandon Hulsey, Gabe Nixon and Mason Gossman, along with Campbell, who made one 3-pointer Monday in scoring eight points.
MORMON TRAIL (48) — Kelton Stansbery 9 0-1 18, Andrew Reed 4 2-4 10, Jakob Horton 2 4-5 8, James Evans 1 3-4 5, Cale Hitt 2 0-0 5, Kale Horton 0 2-2 2. Totals — 18 11-18 48. 3-point goals — 1 (Hitt 1). Team fouls — 14. Fouled out — Reed.
EAST UNION (45) — Trevor Barnett 8 0-0 18, Jesse Akers 5 2-2 12, Cole Campbell 2 3-9 8, Mason Gossman 1 2-2 4, Dustin Hoyt 1 1-2 3. Totals — 17 8-15 45. 3-point goals — 3 (Barnett 2, Campbell 1). Team fouls — 19. Fouled out — None.
Mormon Trail — 9 18 31 42 48
East Union — 10 28 31 42 45