At 5-9, and somewhere around 145 pounds, St. Charles East sophomore point guard Cole Gentry can easily get lost in a crowd.
And he did just that when St. Charles East players and students swarmed over Gentry on the court after his 25-foot buzzer beater swished through the net to topple visiting Evanston 60-57 in a nonconference clash Saturday night.
The dramatic bomb from beyond the top of the key capped off a career night for Gentry, who had 30 points highlighted by 6-of-6 shooting from both the 3-point arc and the free-throw line.
Regularly thats a tough one, Gentry said of his game-winner, which came about after he ran from the far right corner to near midcourt to grab the inbounds pass with 5 seconds left in a tie game, take two dribbles and launch a shot that hit nothing but net.
It was good defense on me, and it was a tough shot, Gentry added. But I have confidence in those situations.
If you are confident, you know you are going to make that shot.
How could he not be confident? It became apparent fairly quickly that Gentry was going put together a night that would go well beyond his previous season high of 12 points when he knocked down three 3-pointers in a first quarter that ended with the Saints ahead 14-13.
He was on fire tonight, St. Charles East coach Patrick Woods said of his young floor general. We needed it, because we talked about having a different look, now that Kendall (Stephens) is out for awhile (with shoulder injury).
Dom (Aducci) cannot shoulder the whole load by himself, and Cole was a great help tonight, Woods said.
Evanston head coach Mike Ellis smelled trouble brewing with Gentry several weeks ago.
There was a sense that he was going to be a problem a month ago when I came here to scout him, Ellis said. So we knew No. 44 was a point guard and our kids are well aware of who he was, and I think he is one of the best point guards in the state.
Despite Gentrys heroics, St. Charles East (10-4) never could open a big lead on Evanston (7-9) in a game that had 16 lead changes and 8 ties, including 31-31 at the half.
But it was the Wildkits who stayed in the game behind four 3-pointers from Will Jones, who paced his team with 13 points. Evanston opened the biggest lead of the night at 45-39 on a C.J. Singletary fast-break layup with two minutes left in the third quarter.
Gentry sparked the Saints back into a 55-55 tie with 1:15 left in the game by knocking down two 3-pointers and four free throws.
Despite his long-range gunnery, Gentry used a baseline drive with 30 seconds left to give the Saints a 57-55 lead, taking advantage of his defender when he turned his back for a split-second to see if a screen was being set.
The moment the defender turned his head, I went to the basket and knew that I couldnt get it in with my right hand, so I went to the other side to lay it in, Gentry said in describing his up-and-under move.
Jackson Mihevc (11 points) tied the game for Evanston with two free throws at the 10-second mark, and the Saints called timeout with 5 seconds left to set up Gentrys game-winner.
And what was Gentry thinking when his coach called his number for the final shot?
Just step up and knock it down, Gentry said. Somebody has to step up, why not myself?
Aducci chipped in with 13 points, while A.J. Washington added 10 points and a game-high 9 rebounds for the Saints. Elijah Henry added 8 points and a team-high 6 rebounds for Evanston.
The Saints made 21 of 49 shots from the floor for 42 percent, while Evanston converted on 20 of 46 for 43 percent.
In the end, Ellis knew an up-and-coming point guard ambushed his Central Suburban League South team.
Cole Gentry didnt surprise us, we knew what he could do, Ellis said. Hes one of my favorite players in the state, but the shots he made were guardable and we didnt guard him.