Sports is indeed a game of inches and for the Moline Maroons the inches went their way when it counted most on Friday night.
With the Maroons and United Township tied at 45 heading into the final quarter, the game came down to a number of missed shots by Moline that turned into offensive rebounds. Second chances on the offensive end turned into some huge points that gave the Maroons a 62-54 Western Big Six Conference win at the Panther Den.
Moline improves to 20-4, 8-1 in the Big 6 and claims at least a share of the Big 6 championship. The Panthers fall to 15-9, 3-4.
"It is was a game of inches," UT coach Ryan Webber said. "Basketball is a crazy game. We battled our way back into the game and fought so hard to force Moline into tough shots. They missed those shots and we could just not secure a defensive rebound.
"There were so many missed shots that just fell inches away from our guys and right where they could reach the ball. Then, the ball would get deflected and bounce right out to (Deonte) Billups or (Brody) Harding."
Biggest in the final quarter was senior Treyton Lamphier. He grabbed six of his seven rebounds and scored all five of his points in the final eight minutes. Five of his six rebounds in that quarter came on the offensive end.
"It is just about being in the right spot and reading the shot," Lamphier said. "Sometimes when you get in that big crowd and I worry about getting undercut, but I still have to go get it."
Added Moline coach Sean Taylor, "That is just will. We talk over and over about how Treyton can be even better but he is just a winner. He is fearless and he cares. I think if you want to be good for me, you have to be coached and he comes back time after time to wanting to get better."
The Maroons seemed to have control at halftime, using an 11-0 run to get the lead to double-figures, but the Panthers came right back with what was probably their best quarter of the season to take a 45-42 lead late in the third.
"I'm really proud of the fight and effort of my guys," Webber said. "As a coach, all we want the game to be about is your team reflecting the things we believe in as a coach. They just fought so hard, then (Drew) Wiemers hits a falling-down 3-pointer to tie it at the buzzer."
The Maroons also had to do some battling back on Friday. After losing a pair of games last weekend, Taylor wasn't sure what to expect this week. He laid the team in the hands of his seniors, especially Harding.
"We had some good practices this week," Taylor said. "Brody just wouldn't let the guys put their heads down. His leadership is what separates him. He came up clutch for us."
Added Lamphier, "It is all about us staying level. We just try to play your way and play good basketball."
Billups led the Maroons with 22 points and 10 rebounds; Wiemers added 20 points and Harding finished with 11. Sophomore Ryne Schimmel came in off the bench to hit two big baskets.
For UT, Daveon Ellis finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Atem Agot added 13 points nine rebounds and four assists, and Jean Luc Wilson notched eight points and four assists.