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Foresters hit buzzer beater to sink Trojans

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

UPLAND — Taylor University came back to force one overtime Tuesday evening and made another play that seemingly put the Crossroads League men’s basketball game into a second extra period.

Huntington University and Mike Bush had other ideas.

Bush, a fleet-footed senior point guard, answered the Trojans’ tying basket with 4.5 seconds left with a game-winning 3-pointer at the overtime buzzer and the Foresters pulled off a 102-99 victory in Don Odle Arena on Taylor’s Senior Night.

Taylor guard Mason Degenkolb made a short-range jumper with 0.4 seconds left in regulation to force the overtime period and another in the extra session that tied it 99-all. Bush, though, raced upcourt and released a jump shot from 23 feet out that went through the basket.

“I just wanted to make a play for my team and I knew if I could get to my spot that it would fall,” said Bush, who scored 31 points to lead the Foresters. “I ended up getting to my spot and good things happened.

“We all practice that as kids in our backyards ... and it something I was prepared for and I’m just happy it went in,” Bush added.

Taylor lost its fifth Crossroads League home game and dropped to 16-13, 7-10, which could prove fatal to the Trojans’ NAIA National Tournament prospects. Huntington improved to 12-17, 8-9 Crossroads League and is tied for sixth-place in the standings with one game remaining Saturday.

“It definitely hurts,” Taylor coach Josh Andrews said. “It’s a game we wanted to get. We haven’t played well at home this year and to the level we expected to, and if you’re going to position yourself in the conference you got to protect your home floor and we did not play well in the conference at home.

“It’s frustrating. Our guys are really dangerous, but we just haven’t strung together (plays) on both sides of the floor for 40 minutes like we wanted to,” Andrews added.

Huntington seemingly had the game won leading 90-85 with 39 seconds left in regulation but would miss four straight free throws in the waning moments. Ryan Robinson hit a 3-pointer with 22 seconds to play that pulled the Trojans to within 90-88 and then Degenkolb worked the clock down and drove to the basket for the tying basket just ahead of the buzzer.

Degenkolb was 0-of-3 from 3-point range but for the season one of the Trojans’ best long-range shooters. Andrews said the sophomore guard had the option to shot from behind the arc or drive to the basket as he broke down Huntington’s defense.

“Mason’s really good from the middle of the floor and we let him make the decision there and he made great decision to send it to overtime,” Andrews said. “If he shot a ‘3’ that would have been great, but he made a play and in our gym we like our chances (in overtime). They were just a little bit tougher than we were tonight.”

It was the exact same situation as the overtime was nearing an end, this time with Taylor trailing 99-7, and Degenkolb pulled up for the short jump shot. Problem was, the Foresters and Bush had enough time to get downcourt for and get off a shot.

“You’re down and you got to get to your spot and in the guys’ hands you wanted it in and the ball goes through,” Andrews said. “We would have liked to turned that ball in the backcourt and forced that shot a little bit further, but (Bush) made a nice shot and nice play. They made one more play than us tonight.”

Foresters coach Ty Platt said he was calling for a timeout but Bush never heard his coach and proceeded to dribble downcourt.

“He can go the length of the floor in a little bit of nothing and so we just turned him loose,” Platt said. “I kind of wanted a timeout to be honest, but he didn’t see me and I’ve got to be truthful, I was kind of wanting that.

“But but in the same sense in a tie game you want to push it as far as you can and get a look and you may not get that after you call a timeout. It was a big shot by him and he did well all night.”

Huntington also had Trevor Lockwood and Konner Platt with 28 points apiece and Devon Merder had 11 points. Four players scored all but four of the Foresters’ points.

Tyler Arens, a one-time Marion Giants player, had just two points off a team-leading 18.4-point average.

Jake Heggeland led Taylor with 28 points while Robinson had 23 and Degenkolb 19.