Augusta's boys basketball team was temporarily stunned. In a short sequence of events, Wellington's Nick Becker swished a 3-pointer, stole a pass, then made another 3-pointer to give the Crusaders a 42-36 lead late in Tuesday's home game.
But it was another sequence of events that won it for Augusta. After Augusta rallied to tie the game late with 15 seconds left, Kyler Steinkamp made an inbound pass to Brandon Smith right underneath the basket. Smith was fouled hard, then made the ensuing free throws that lifted the Orioles to a 52-50 win on senior night.
"It was for Connor [Hurst], but they both switched off to Connor," coach David Stephenson said of the play. "Brandon was wide open. That was a good read by Kyler."
The Orioles had built a big lead early, largely in part to Kesten Trebbe's three first-quarter 3-pointers. The third one gave Augusta a 10-5 lead that led to the student section erupting with a big cheer.
Chase Winter scored on a putback and hit a 3-pointer late in the second quarter to give Augusta a 22-13 halftime lead.
But Wellington turned up the heat on defense to climb back into the game to pressure the Orioles. The Crusaders forced 13 second-half turnovers and converted a lot of those to points. Trevor Nance buried a 3-pointer off a turnover midway through the third quarter to pull Wellington within one at 24-23.Noah Wolff later scored a basket to keep Wellington close as both teams went back and forth to close the quarter.
With 5:33 left in the fourth, Tyler Miles hit a jumper to give Wellington its first lead since early in the first quarter. Becker then made his big plays to stretch the lead. Wolff later scored on a screen-and-roll from Becker for a 44-38 lead.
The end of the fourth quarter got crazier and crazier as both teams exchanged stretches of turnovers. There were 14 combined turnovers in the quarter. It was Augusta's defense that forced crucial turnovers down the stretch to subdue Wellington.
Wellington led 48-43 when Trebbe and Winter hit back-to-back 3-pointers for a one-point lead, both off of steals. Wellington and Augusta exchanged free throws to tie it at 50 before Smith made the deciding free throws.