WAYNE — The third time isn’t always a charm.
After battling back from an 11-point halftime deficit, the Wayne Pioneers missed three game-winning 3-point shot attempts in the final 10 seconds and fell to the visiting St. Joe Irish Tuesday night in boys high school basketball.
“All year we’ve struggled coming out of halftime but they buckled down late,” St. Joe coach Ryan Taylor said. “What more could you ask for out of a young team.”
Wayne’s Jake Merritt tied the game at 59-59 after sinking two free throws with 1:18 remaining, energizing the crowd inside a packed Pioneer gym.
That crowd was quickly hushed when the Irish’ Jaylen Motely drove into the lane and gave his team a late lead but left enough time on the clock for one more Wayne possession.
After the go ahead basket, Wayne coach Sam Cochenour kept his one remaining timeout in his pocket and left the result up to the white jerseys on the floor as the final seconds ticked away.
“I was ready to call one, but was waiting to see what our guys could come up with,” he said. “We ended up getting three good chances at (a basket) from deep. Jake (Merritt) had a couple and Nick (Bryant) had another. I don’t think we could’ve gotten a better look off a set play had a used my last timeout.”
It was the second time in as many games the Pioneers were tied or led the game late into the second half and ultimately lost by single digits.
“We’ve just got to keep playing, that’s the big thing,” Cochenour said, though he was encouraged by the grit his team has displayed in defeat.
The two sides played even in the first quarter, but the Irish (7-2) rode Motley’s 15 points in the second quarter to lead Wayne (2-8) by double-digits at the break.
Motley added a dozen points in the second half, including the eventual game-winner with 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, scoring a game-high 27.
“He stepped up, I’ve been talking to him about showing up in big games,” Taylor said of the freshman. “This was a confidence boost not only for him but for us as a team after taking two losses in a row.”
The win snapped St Joe’s two game losing streak and extended Wayne’s to five games.
The Pioneers next face the Logan Wildcats Friday as they resume Cardinal Conference play. The Wildcats defeated Wayne 78-54 in their first meeting of the season Jan. 7.
SJ 10 25 16 9 — 61: Motley 27, Johnson 18, Ehirim 6, Burlow 4, Hickman 3
WAYNE 10 14 20 15 — 59: Merritt 26, Stiltner 11, N. Bryant 10, Maynard 5, Sanchez 5, Sansom 4