Lyle Jacobs knew it was just a matter of time. Thankfully for Red Cloud and its fans, so did his coach.
Jacobs missed his first nine shots from the field in Thursday night’s District 15A championship game against Custer at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, but the senior southpaw nailed the final, most important one, beating the buzzer with a 16-footer to give the Crusaders a 54-52 victory over the Wildcats in the teams’ third meeting this season.
“He’s played varsity for four years,” Red Cloud head coach Matt Rama said. “If you’re going to win or lose, we wanted to give him the opportunity to finish.”
And finish he did.
The game got wild with 90 seconds to play when Custer’s Kenneth Myers drilled a 3-pointer to get the ’Cats within 48-47. Custer immediately fouled Red Cloud’s Sam Hare, who made 1-of-2 from the charity stripe, before Myers canned another triple with just over a minute to play to put his team up by one.
Trailing 50-49, Red Cloud went to junior Falcon Albers, who calmly drained a 3-pointer of his own from the right wing to give the Crusaders a 52-50 lead with 56.8 seconds left. Custer easily broke the Crusader pressure, however, and sophomore Chase Glazier scored and was fouled with 51.8 to play. Glazier missed the free throw to leave the game tied at 52-all, and the Crusaders ran the clock down to 5.6 seconds before calling timeout to set up Jacobs’ heroics.
“Five seconds left, it was either a shot for me or a kick to the corner,” Jacobs said. “I knew there were only 5 seconds left, so I just pump faked and, when I got (the defender) off his feet, I shot it. It looked pretty good and it felt good. It feels really, really, really good.”
Jacobs, like any shooter, never questioned what he needed to do when he got the ball.
“You just keep shooting,” Jacobs said. “I have a shooter’s mentality. You just keep shooting and have a short-term memory.”
Things never would have been close without the play of Red Cloud junior Duran Richards, who led the Crusaders with 17 points on the night and was a constant presence on the boards.
“It was just a good all-around win for us,” Rama said of the Crusaders’ first victory over the Wildcats this season. Custer knocked off Red Cloud on a last-second shot of its own by guard Cody Martinz the last time the two squads met.
Custer senior Chad Bryant closed his stellar career with 17 points to lead the Wildcats (15-7) despite dealing with Jacobs hounding him in a triangle-and-two defense all night long.
Red Cloud (15-7) will meet St. Thomas More for the Region 8A championship on Tuesday at the civic center. The two teams met once in the regular season, with St. Thomas More winning 80-53 in Rapid City on Feb. 7.