Kyle Pruemer could have tried to pull a Christian Laettner in the closing seconds of Teutopolis' game against Mount Vernon Saturday at the St. Anthony Shootout. But he stuck to the Wooden Shoes' gameplan and pulled a Valparaiso instead, helping T-Town to a thrilling 48-46 win.
Pruemer caught a three-quarters court baseball pass from Jared Waldhoff on the left elbow with 2.5 seconds remaining - just about the same spot on the floor that Laettner launched his famous fadeaway to stun Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA Tournament.
Pruemer resisted the urge to mimic Laettner's high-difficulty shot and found an open man with a touch pass instead, perfectly executing a play that was very similar to the one made famous by Valpo in the 1998 NCAA Tournament.
The difference? Unlike Bryce Drew, who hit a game-winning 3-pointer for Valpo, the Shoes' open man just so happened to be cutting toward the basket.
And Teutopolis proved that where there's a Will, there's a way, as Cody Will's layup won it at the horn.
"Coach set it up," Will said. "We only had two seconds, so we had to get it in quick. Kyle made the touch pass and, luckily, it worked out for us. I just wanted to get it up as quick as I could and hoped it'd go in."
Will's game-winner gave the 6-foot-2 junior the only two points of the game in just his third career varsity start. It also gave T-Town its first lead since Pruemer scored on the opening possession of the game.
The Rams (8-7) led by three with 45 seconds remaining after Travis Mitchell sank both ends of a 1-and-1 opportunity, and they had an opportunity to make it a two-possession game after Trevor Flota was fouled on a steal. Flota missed the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity, however, and Derek Smith responded with a three-point play with 27 seconds to go to tie the game.
Will and Brett Mette then stripped Mount Vernon freshman Brandon Fitzjerrells on his way to the basket to give the Shoes a chance to win it in regulation.
Will wisely called a timeout after coming up with the loose ball, and T-Town assistant coach Mike Wilson suddenly got visions of 1998 in his head.
"He automatically turned to me and said, ÔValparaiso,'" Shoes head coach Andy Fehrenbacher said. "I said, ÔAlright, let's do it.'"
The play requires a perfect three-quarters court entry pass, and a big target to receive it. Fortunately for T-Town, it had the perfect personnel at its disposal in Waldhoff, a standout pitcher and shortstop on the baseball diamond, and the towering 6-6 1Ú2 Pruemer.
"It takes somebody to inbound it like Jared Waldhoff, who's got a strong arm and is a good precision passer," Fehrenbacher said. "It was a perfect pass, and then you get a big (man) like Kyle three quarters down the court to catch it. Then, you're basically looking at shooters filling the lanes."
Will happened to be the one that Pruemer saw first and he didn't waste a second getting him the ball.
"I just found him in the corner of my eye and tip-passed it when I caught it and he was wide open," Pruemer said.
"Whoever's open, you go with them," Fehrenbacher said of the play. "It works out much better when you don't have to get a jump shot and you have a layup."
The fact that T-Town hadn't practiced the play at all this season prior to Saturday's game makes the Shoes' perfect execution all-the-more impressive.
"Again, I give credit to the assistants - especially coach Wilson - for calling that play, and the kids came out and executed it perfectly," Fehrenbacher said. "From time to time we work on situations in practice, but that's something that we have not worked on in a while. To execute to perfection like that says a lot."
Mount Vernon coach Scott Gamber said the play should have never happened.
"We let them throw it to the 3-point line completely open with no resistance, and then we let them back door us for a layup," Mt. Vernon Gamber said. "I have no idea what was going threw our minds on that."
The last-second loss was Mount Vernon's third such defeat in its past four games, as Gamber's team saw an early eight-point lead slip away to the Shoes (12-3).
Three early fast-break buckets helped the usually-deliberate Rams race out to a 17-11 lead after one quarter, and a Jake Pike basket to start the second half had Mount Vernon enjoying its biggest lead.
The Rams, whose biggest varsity regular stands just 6-3, had no luck stopping Pruemer inside early on, however, as T-Town's big man pumped in eight first-quarter points to help keep his team within striking distance.
T-Town made it a point to pound the ball inside to Pruemer and freshman Brett Mette throughout.
"Kyle is a stud," Fehrenbacher said. "He's a good player for us, a third-team all-stater last year. We'd be a fool not to get it in to him. We definitely felt we had the size advantage this particular game and I said, ÔWe gotta use that.' And we did. Our guys were very good at finding him and Mette inside."
T-Town battled back in the second quarter, and Reed Hardiek's three-point play had T-Town trailing by just three, 27-24, at halftime.
Mount Vernon scored the first four points of the second half, but a rare 3-pointer by Pruemer with about 5 1Ú2 minutes to go in the frame pulled T-Town back to within two, signaling once again that the Shoes weren't going to fade away.
Another Pruemer 3-pointer tied the game for the first time since early in the first quarter, 42-42 with 3:40 remaining in the game.
The senior finished with 19 points, and is now 4-for-6 from beyond the arc for the season.
Mette impressed in his first career varsity start, finishing with eight points and four rebounds. He is the first Wooden Shoes freshman to earn a start in Fehrenbacher's 15 years with the program. It is believed that Mitch Koester, Andy Gobczynski and Bob Zerrusen are the only other T-Town freshman to earn starts since 1981, Ken Crawford's first year as the Shoes' head coach.
"Brett Mette had a heck of a game as a freshman in his first start," Fehrenbacher said. "I know there's nerves, and to come out and battle and do the things he did was good."
Mette and Will are part of a new-look T-Town starting lineup, as Rourke Schultz and Devin Falbe came off the bench on Saturday.
"We felt we needed to make some changes in our lineup," Fehrenbacher said. "Devin Falbe and Rourke Schultz had been starting for us, but they've accepted roles (off the bench) and I felt they gave us great lifts off the bench when they came in and played. It was good team effort."
Smith joined Pruemer in double figures with 14 points. Fitzjerrells led the Rams with 12, while Feezer had 11 and Flota had 10 - about five below his season average - on 2-for-7 shooting.
Fehrenbacher lauded his team's defensive effort against the slow-paced Rams.
"You have to be patient defensively, and I thought our guys were," Fehrenbacher said. "We stress that a lot in practice - not to dive through passing lanes and go for steals all the time, because when you do that, you're setting yourself up for backdoors and easy layupsÉ Our guys defended really well."
T-Town will return to action at Mattoon on Thursday.
Teutopolis 48, Mount Vernon 46
T-Town 11 13 13 11 - 48
Mount Vernon 17 10 13 6 - 46
T-Town (12-3) - Smith 5-12 2-3 14, Will 1-5 0-0 2, Hardiek 1-3 1-1 3, Falbe 1-2 0-0 2, Mette 4-7 0-0 8, Pruemer 7-9 3-5 19, Waldhoff 0-7 0-0 0. Totals 19-44 6-9 48.
Mount Vernon (8-7) - Liddell 2-3 0-0 4, Mitchell 0-1 2-2 2, Feezer 5-5 1-2 11, Pike 5-7 1-2 11, Flota 2-7 2-5 6, Fitzjerrells 4-8 2-2 12, Hawkins 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 18-35 8-13 46.
3-point goals - T-Town 4-13 (Pruemer 2, Smith 2), Mount Vernon 2-6 (Fitzjerrells 2). Turnovers - T-Town 6, Mount Vernon 8. Rebounds - T-Town 20 (Pruemer 4, Mette 4), Mount Vernon 21 (Flota 6, Feezer 6). Turnovers - T-Town 6, Mount Vernon 7. Team Fouls - Mount Vernon 13, T-Town 15.