Ben Ellis admitted he was a little nervous.
His errant inbounds pass gave United Township the ball and a chance to win the game, Ellis and the Rocks leading by just one point with 6.5 seconds left Friday at the Panther Den.
"It was hectic especially for me because I probably didn't make the right pass," Ellis said. "We got together, knew we couldn't foul, just contest the shot."
Rock Island stood tall in those closing seconds as Jamal Randle contested Delaney Little's 3-point attempt and JaMir Price grabbed the rebound to preserve a 44-43 win for the Rocks.
"It was a relief," Ellis said. "A weight off my shoulders."
The Rocks (15-11, 6-4 Western Big Six) had the benefit of United Township being out of timeouts. Unable to draw up a play, the Panthers looked a little scattered but still managed to get a shot off, though it was heavily contested by Randle and fell short of the mark.
"I almost wanted, because (UT head coach Ryan Webber) runs so many great sets, I wanted to talk about things, but I knew it was giving them a chance," Rock Island coach Thom Sigel said. "When they looked a little scrambled, it was hope we did our jobs, and we were able to get the stop that we needed."
It was a dicey win for the Rocks, who at times looked like they would run away with the game. Rock Island opened up a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter, but UT closed out the half on a 13-2 run to take a 20-19 lead into halftime.
Ellis scored six of his game-high 14 points in the third quarter to pad Rock Island's lead to 31-27, which grew to 39-27 with 4:13 left in the game.
UT came storming back, going on a 10-2 run to cut the lead to 41-37 with 1:18 remaining.
The Panthers had a chance to cut into that lead even more after Randle missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Shamar Grant lost the ball driving up the court, an issue that plagued the Panthers (11-14, 2-8) as they committed 16 turnovers on the night, several unforced.
"We had too many turnovers in the second half, just sloppy, lazy turnovers," Webber said. "We have not been able to get this group to value the ball and understand turnovers win you games and lose you games. We're getting late in the season to still be learning that lesson."
Still, UT had its chance, as Grant made a pair of free throws to get the game to 44-43, and Ellis' inbounds pass set up the final play.
Kyle Ellison led the Panthers with 10 points, and Grant and Little each had nine. Price added nine points for the Rocks.
"We've had opportunities to win and not be able to get them," Sigel said. "We did some of the same things that are not winning plays, and we almost gave another one away. Credit UT for battling, they hit big shots when they needed to and we were able to get out of here with a win. There's some positives in that."