The basketball was loose only long enough for Trevon Taylor to take hold of it Tuesday night.
He didn't have it for long, either. The Nitro freshman, who was facing away from the basket as the final seconds ticked down and the ball came his way, gave a look that asked 'why not?', then turned and dumped in a 8-foot jumper at the buzzer to give the Wildcats an ironic 45-43 win over Poca (15-3) on Senior Night at Nitro High School.
The victory ended a six-game losing streak for Nitro, which hadn't won since Jan. 22 at St. Albans.
"It was crazy," a still-befuddled Taylor said after being mobbed by teammates and Nitro fans who stormed the court after the buzzer.
"That wasn't the way it was written up, you know, but ... I can't even think right now. This is great," Taylor said.
Nitro Coach Bryan Faber called timeout with 18.7 seconds left and the game tied at 43-43. Afterward, the Wildcats (8-12) worked the ball around the court to get an open look for senior guard Angelo Sirianni, who missed from 12 feet. A glut of players from both teams crammed inside the paint acted like pinball bumpers off the miss, with the ball finally caroming its way into Taylor's hands.
Taylor hit his shot, and Faber stood, clapped his hands once and tried to remain businesslike through the post-game handshake with Poca Coach Allen Osborne.
"Poca came to fight. You had guys that fought and scrapped, and we made one more play at the end of the game than they did," Faber said.
The Dots, who are ranked second in the latest Associated Press Class AA poll, had a chance to take the lead just before Faber called timeout. However, sophomore Noah Frampton missed a mid-range jumper, and Nitro regained possession with 40 seconds remaining. Wildcat junior J.P. Mawyer then took a curious 3-point attempt from the corner with 25 ticks left, and Faber stopped play as soon as Taylor could corral the first of two critical last-minute rebounds.
"We had our chances. We couldn't capitalize, though, and they did," said Osborne, whose team dug its way out of a 19-9 hole in the first half to lead through much of the third quarter.
"We turned the ball over too many times, and just got out to too bad of a start. Give Nitro credit, they're a good team and they played well."
Poca took a 27-25 lead when Cameron Cottrill hit a 3-pointer with 5:35 left in the third quarter, and the Dots were able to extend their lead to 31-27 off a Matt Chandler putback with 3:50 left in the period. However, Chandler's bucket was the last field goal the Dots would manage until Jake Payne scored with 3:36 left in the game, a field goal drought of 8:04.
Faber said his team's improved defense on Frampton - who led all scorers with 18 points - was the difference that enabled his team to regain its early momentum.
"Playing Poca, and playing an Allen Osborne-coached team, your lead's not safe," Faber said. "They're going to grind out every single possession and they're going to battle you till the end. We had to continue fighting through screens and pressuring the ball and forcing tough shots.
"The main thing we tried to do was disrupt Noah Frampton's looks a little bit. We were helping off of him in the first half and in the second half we didn't help off of him. We just tried to limit his catches as much as possible. We disrupted his rhythm a little bit, I guess."
Frampton had 14 points in the first half, but just four after halftime.
Sirianni, who averages more than 20 points per game, had nine in the first quarter alone but was held scoreless in the second. He finished with a game-high 13 points and led all players with four assists and three steals.
"They defended him very well," Faber said. "They were physical with him. They do a great job of staying in front, they did a great job of helping on him. They made him work for every single thing he got."
Nitro built its lead quickly with a starting lineup exclusively made up of its seniors. Once the second quarter began, however, and Faber inserted Taylor, Mawyer and other underclassmen into the game, the Dots began to make their move.
Taylor, a regular starter who, along with senior Ethan Clark, also finished with 10 points Tuesday, said the atypical way in which the game unfolded was a challenge.
"It was hard at first. We struggled to find a rhythm," he said. "We just kept on going and kept working hard."
Frampton was Poca's only double-figure scorer, but Chandler and Cottrill each had 10 rebounds in the loss. Cottrill finished with nine points.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.tay...@dailymail.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT
Poca (15-3) FG 3Pt FT Pts
Cameron Cottrill 3-8 1-3 2-2 9
Jacob Payne 2-5 0-0 0-0 4
Matt Chandler 2-7 1-3 2-3 7