WARRENTON, Missouri — Michael Porter Jr. doesn’t normally miss that shot. He’s 15 feet from the basket and elevating above the Madison Prep (19-11) defense — six seconds to play.
But the shot rimmed out. Still, Porter somehow grabbed the rebound two feet from the rim with a really good look at the bucket, but maybe an off-balance one.
His put-back attempt may have been blocked. Maybe, he didn’t have the best hold on the ball. Maybe, there was contact underneath. Maybe. Porter ended up on his back at the end of the play.
For certain, there was no whistle, not like the one that came a possession earlier. Michael Porter Jr. and his younger brother Jontay Porter had Madison Prep point guard Daniel Farris trapped near half court and the ball squirted loose.
It ended up under Michael Porter Jr.’s arm, but Farris dived back on top of it. Jontay Porter grabbed at the ball. Instead, he wrapped up Farris around the waist. The Bears’ guard made two free throws.
The Trailblazers (25-3) got the ball back after the foul shots with eight seconds to play. Michael Porter Jr., their star player who was averaging 25 points per game coming into Saturday’s game, had two chances to tie it up. He missed both.
Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School lost in the Class 3 round of eight in the state playoffs, 76-74.
“Got the look we wanted,” Tolton coach Jeremy Osborne said. “We wanted to get something attacking the rim. Didn’t finish. Just missed a shot. We missed plenty of shots all night. We missed plenty of shots all year. Missing that one didn’t cost us the game.”
“It’s tough,” said senior forward Josh Boyer. “You can’t make every single shot.”
Behind the Porter brothers and Boyer, who scored 18 points, Tolton was the prohibitive favorite to win the Class 3 state title. A win Saturday would have sent the Trailblazers to the state’s “Final Four.”
For a while, it looked as if Tolton had overwhelmed Madison Prep. Tolton went up by 14 midway through the third quarter. It was a far cry from the 10-0 hole in which they began the game.
Before picking up two quick fouls, Levi Stockard III established a presence inside for Madison Prep, and when he subbed out, Damion Taylor (8 points) and Jermaine Walker (9 points) filled in.
Out of an Osborne timeout, Tolton made an 8-2 run.
“I thought they came out ready to play and we didn’t,” Osborne said. “We weren’t very composed from the beginning. Really sloppy the first two, three minutes of the game and after the timeout we just had to reassure them, talk to them a little bit and calm their nerves.”
The Trailblazers held that momentum through the rest of the half and into the third quarter. A 3-pointer from senior guard Ryan Chappell gave them their first lead at 29-26 two minutes before halftime. By the third quarter, they led by eight.
Then came Madison Prep’s press.
“That’s probably what got them back in the game,” Boyer said.
The Bears extended pressure on point guard Isaiah Wilson and forced the ball away from Michael Porter Jr., who finished with 29 points. Tolton had 21 turnovers on the game.
“We figured our best opportunity was to get the game going at a high-pace style,” said Madison Prep coach Altonio Irons. “That’s what we ended up doing in the second half.”
With two minutes to play, Madison Prep shaved Tolton’s lead down to two points. A 3-pointer from Darren Huntley with just over a minute to play tied the game at 70, the first tie of the half.
Stockard, playing with four fouls, spun in a layup the next possession to take a one-point lead with 58 seconds to play. Jontay Porter split a pair of free throws a possession later, then Farris hit two foul shots to make it 74-71.
Boyer drove to the basket for a left-handed layup plus a foul out of a Tolton timeout to tie the game with 29 seconds to play, and Irons took a timeout to draw up a final sequence.
The Bears would try to get Farris open with a drive to the basket, but had Stockard posted up on the block as a secondary option, Irons said afterward. Regardless, he wanted his team to attack the rim.
“It didn’t work that way,” he said. “It ended up being a scramble.”
The Porter brothers — Tolton’s two tallest players — converged on Farris who came up with a loose ball, got fouled and made a pair of free throws.
“We knew they were gonna trap it and try to get it out of our hands, but it was just a play,” Irons said. “A loose ball and a play we ended up getting.”
Out of timeouts, Wilson took off down the floor for the Trailblazers and squeezed a pass to Michael Porter Jr. near the elbow. He took one dribble and put up shot. No good.
“We knew he was going to try to get to the basket,” Irons said, “and when it went up, we just said, ‘We can’t give up a second shot, so find a body and try to get the rebound.’”
It didn’t quite work that way. With three seconds left, Porter grabbed his own rebound on the right side and put up another shot. It hit the side of rim.
“That right there is something where I had my fingers crossed just hoping that he doesn’t hit it,” Irons said. “He’s so good he can knock that down any time.”
Boyer tangled with Stockard for the rebound. The buzzer sounded. Ball game.
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.