OTTUMWA – For the second straight night, the ball was in the hands of Chris Childs with the score tied and time winding down.
One night after missing a potential game-winning jumper at the end of regulation against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Childs didn’t miss in the same situation on Saturday night against Coffeyville. The sophomore transfer from the Bronx drilled a pull-up jumper with 1.2 seconds left, lifting fourth-ranked Indian Hills to a 70-68 win over the 23rd-ranked Ravens, bringing the 2019 Financial Partners Classic to a thrilling conclusion.
“It was just a matter of staying confident, taking the shots that I’ve taken before,” Childs said. “Coach (Hank Plona) drew something up for us. That was the option that I saw was best.”
Childs followed up a career-high 24 points, including 11 of IHCC’s 15 overtime points in Friday’s 77-74 win over NEO with another career night scoring 28 points including the game winner against Coffeyville. Tylor Perry’s final heave from half-court drifted off to the right for the Ravens (6-2), who could not hold on to a six-point second half lead against the 6-0 Warriors.
“For about the first 0.3 seconds that ball got off (Perry’s) hands, I was a little worried,” said IHCC freshman Chris Payton, the closest player to the basket on the final play. “I kind of saw it going off to the right. I just put my hands up in the air, pointed up to the sky and thanked God for looking out for us on that one.”
Without Payton, Indian Hills might not have even had a chance to win in the final seconds. The Bloomington, Illinois native rebounded from a scoreless first half, scored all of his career-high 12 points in the final 16 minutes making eight of nine free throw attempts and a lay-up created by a fantastic spin move at the free throw line that created a lane to a basket that put Indian Hills back on top 55-54 with 6:57 left.
“Every day, somebody gets hit with it in practice,” Payton said of his spin move, which capped a six-minute rally by the Warriors after falling behind 49-43 to the Ravens. “I just know that I can go to it. If someone’s in my way, I know I can elevate over them.”
Childs followed up Payton’s spin and lay-up with his sixth make from 3-point range, briefly giving IHCC a 58-54 lead. Coffeyville answered right back with a lay-up by Meikkel Murray followed by a go-ahead 3-pointer from Bostyn Holt with 4:26 left. Payton put IHCC back on top with a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession and nailed two more free throws with with 2:40 to go and the game tied at 62.
“I don’t really look at the clock and I try not to think about what’s going to happen if I miss at the line,” Payton said. “I try to think about what’s going to happen when I make the free throw. That way, there’s no reluctance when I shoot it. I try to be confident in my routine and know that it’s going to go in. I don’t question what will happen when I miss. I just think making another stop after a make.”
Tony Huston could not match Payton on the Coffeyville end, splitting a pair of free throws to allow IHCC to remain on top 64-63 with under two minutes left. Drake Jeffries scored on a putback to put IHCC up 66-63, but Holt responded rebounding a second missed free throw by Kymani Dunham and turning the second chance into a game-tying lay-up with 1:19 left.
“This is the first time I can remember have back-to-back games like this going right down to the wire,” Plona said. “I’m sure it’s probably happened in the history of the program, but there’s a reason NEO and Coffeyville both made it to the national tournament last year. They’re very talented, well-coached teams. It’s not surprising at all to have two games like this with those type of opponents.”
Jeffries drew a foul with one second on the shot clock and 21.4 seconds left in regulation, making both free throws to put IHCC up 68-66. After Holt answered again with a driving basket to tie the score with 8.2 seconds left, IHCC used its final timeout and put the ball in the hands of Childs for the second straight night to win or go overtime.
“I was looking to come off a screen and be aggressive. If the defense was going to help, I was going to skip the ball or throw the lob to the basket,” Childs said. “When got to mid-range, I saw my defender. His feet were still a little sideways, so I just elevated, raised up and made the shot.
“Good things have happened a lot more often than not when Chris has had the ball in his hands,” Plona added. “You never expect to see someone always hit that final shot in that scenario, but we trust Chris to come right back the next time we’re in the situation to make the winning play. We had Drake and Tyrese (Nickelson) open for shots. Mo (Maurice Calloo) was going to set the screen and was going to be pop and be open behind Chris if they double-teamed him. We also put Chris Payton down by the rim where a lob could be thrown his way for a dunk. We tried to set it up to allow Chris to make the right play and the right decision.”
Nickelson added 11 points for Indian Hills in the win. Murray led Coffeyville with 20 points on Saturday and in the tournament with 18.5 points per game after scoring 17 in a 68-60 win Friday over No. 14 Southeastern.
Indian Hills heads to Niceville, Florida for a battle of unbeatens with Gulf Coast State (4-0) on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. The Warriors then face No. 22 Northwest Florida State (5-1) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.