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Instant classic: ACC wins at buzzer
By John Lemon | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/3/2012 1:40 AM

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You had to see Joey McEachern's fadeaway 18-foot baseline jumper as time expired Friday to give Aurora Central a 51-50 victory over Yorkville in the Class 3A Sandwich regional championship to believe it.

Except Aurora Central junior Phil Schuetz, who threw the pass to McEachern, saw it and still couldn't believe it.

And truth be told he wasn't alone.

Schuetz said he even had a dream the night before about the Chargers winning a regional title, and even the dream couldn't match the reality of how Aurora Central did it.

"Nothing like that," Schuetz said. "Not quite like that. That is amazing, regional championship winning on a buzzer-beater. That is unbelievable."

McEachern's game-winner was the fourth lead change in the final 1:26, the third in the final 27 seconds and second lead change in an absolutely stunning final 2.3 seconds.

Where to start? No. 3 seed Aurora Central (11-17) led nearly the entire game, opening up its biggest lead over No. 1 Yorkville (20-8) at 40-30 late in the third quarter.

The Foxes rallied in the fourth quarter and sent their half of a sold-out, standing room only crowd into a frenzy when Brandon Holmes knocked down a 3 to tie the game at 43 with 2:24 left.

McEachern, who hit 11 of 16 shots from the field mostly from at least 17 feet away, calmly sank a baseline jumper to put the Chargers back up 45-43.

Yorkville's Josh Williams had the emphatic answer, dunking on a feed from Holmes to again tie the game. Holmes then came up with a steal and wove his way through the Chargers defense for a lay-in and a 47-45 Yorkville lead with 1:26 left the first time the Foxes were up since 10-9 in the first quarter.

Again it was McEachern coming through for the Chargers, this time cutting through the lane and flipping in a shot to tie the game at 47.

After a Derek Piszczek free throw the only point of the game for the senior who drilled 12 of 15 3s in the shootout before the game but couldn't get on track against the Chargers' 2-3 zone put the Foxes ahead 48-47, DeMyers sank both ends of a 1-and-1 to put ACC up 49-48.

Yorkville got a break when coach Dan McGuire called timeout just as Paul Kaminski came up with a steal for the Chargers. The Foxes penetrated but DeMyers, as he did all night, altered the shot, grabbed the board and was fouled with 7.7 seconds left.

It looked like Aurora Central had survived and the celebration was about to start.

Instead the fun was just beginning.

DeMyers missed the 1-and-1. Williams grabbed the rebound and in just five seconds his outlet pass hit Holmes who found a cutting Cody Bailey for a lay-in and 50-49 Foxes lead with 2.3 seconds to go as the Chargers failed to get back on defense.

With a deafening roar from the Yorkville side, this time it looked like that defensive breakdown was going to cost the Chargers a regional title.

Instead the fun was just beginning.

Having to go the length of the court, Schuetz heaved a pass intended for DeMyers just to the left of the Chargers free-throw line. The ball sailed high out of bounds, and it appeared once again the Chargers were done.

But the officials quickly ruled Yorkville had deflected the ball out of bounds. The Chargers had the ball under their own basket with 1.6 seconds to go.

With no timeouts left, Drye called "Green" a play he learned at Illinois Wesleyan. DeMyers set a screen and McEachern curled to the corner. Schuetz got him the ball, McEachern quickly elevated and knocked the shot down as the buzzer sounded.

The Aurora Central students stormed the court to mob the players under the Chargers basket while Drye ran toward center court looking a lot like former N.C. State coach Jim Valvano after winning the 1983 NCAA title looking for someone hug.

"It's unreal," Drye said. "Clearly we didn't play well down the stretch and made a lot of mistakes but when it came down to it we executed the play perfectly. That is our best quick-look inbounds baseline play. He got it and buried it."

McEachern led all scorers with 23 points and like a lot of the Chargers fans had a bad feeling when the long pass went out bounds just before his game-winner.

"When we threw that baseball pass I didn't know it got tipped, I thought it was over," said the third-year varsity player moments after being carried around the court by fans yelling "Jo-ey," Jo-ey!"

"It felt like it was in when I shot it. It was a great game, the funnest game I've ever played in my life."

Schuetz had all the confidence in the world in McEachern.

"As soon as we saw we had the ball we knew what play we were going to run for Joey," Schuetz said. "He makes that shot nine times out of 10. That's his shot."

DeMyers might have been the happiest player other than McEachern after his miss at the line moments earlier.

"When I saw that shot go in I was so happy Joey didn't let me lose the game on a missed free throw," DeMyers said. "That is something I'll remember the rest of my life. It's the closest I've ever been to crying playing basketball."

Instead it was the Yorkville players who left in tears. When asked about the Chargers getting the ball back on the long pass, McGuire offered a "no comment."

He had more to say about the following play.

"That is probably my fault," McGuire said. "I thought they were going to try to do a lob to DeMyers so I think they (his players) went after that. Either way it's a tough shot, the kid is fading away at the baseline. I know he's a great shooter but it's just a great shot."

Drye said he thought the officials got the call right.

"I did," Drye said. "I thought it was tipped. Both guys called it. Both officials had it."

Williams led Yorkville with 16 points and 14 rebounds in a battle all night inside against DeMyers. Holmes added 14 points and Bailey 10.

"I'm at a loss for words," McGuire said. "Just wish it could have come out differently for our kids."

McEachern also grabbed 9 rebounds, second only to DeMyers who had another big game with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocked shots, plus countless other attempts that he made the Foxes hesitate, alter or a couple times travel. Yorkville made just 8 of 32 in falling behind 24-20 at halftime; they finished 18 of 55 (32.7 percent).

Now with two straight regional titles, the Chargers will go for their second straight sectional championship starting Wednesday night at Sycamore against Johnsburg.

And they have a moment that is going to live a lot longer than that in ACC lore.

"That kid has been though a lot, lots of peaks and valleys and the biggest moment of his life he just came through and buried it," Drye said. "God bless him. What a shot. What a moment for that kid. I couldn't be any happier for him. You can't make that stuff up. He's not going to forget it and all these fans, we have the best fans in the entire world bar none so they got a great moment too. What an ending."