NORMAL - Marcus King matched his season high with 15 points Tuesday night. Yet it was his "timely" assist that rescued Normal Community High School's basketball team, much to East Peoria's dismay.
With 0.6 seconds showing on the clock in regulation, Alex Buck threw a full-court pass to King. The 6-foot-4 junior tipped the ball to Sheldon Harper, whose lay-in beat the buzzer and sent the nonconference game into overtime.
Harper's short jumper in the lane with 54 seconds left in the extra period gave the Ironmen an improbable 51-50 victory over East Peoria at the NCHS Gym.
"We've had a crazy basketball season. We've had some crazy stuff at the end of games go against us, other teams getting last-second shots," NCHS coach Dave Witzig said. "It was nice for us to be on the other end of that."
King said the final play in regulation didn't exactly go as planned.
"I was supposed to catch and shoot, but I got boxed out and couldn't get both hands on the ball," said King. "So I tipped it to Sheldon."
The Ironmen won their third straight game to improve to 11-15. NCHS entertains Big 12 Conference opponent Decatur MacArthur in its Senior Night game at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
East Peoria (9-12) thought it had a win secured in regulation. Zach Ott's 15-foot turnaround baseline jumper rolled in and the clock ran out as the Raiders jumped for joy with an apparent 45-43 victory.
However, the officials ruled NCHS called a timeout and reset the clock at 0.6 seconds.
Afterward, East Peoria coach Ron Kelch was asked his assessment of the end of the fourth quarter.
"I'm not going to comment on that," said Kelch. "I don't think it would be in my best interest to say anything."
East Peoria still had a chance to pull out the game in overtime. Buck missed the front end of a one-and-bonus with 7.6 seconds left. The Raiders' Cory Bierdman got the rebound and East Peoria called a timeout at halfcourt with 3.8 seconds left.
The Ironmen swarmed over the 6-foot-7 Ott, who scored a game-high 23 points. The in-bounds pass was tipped and Ben Morrow's desperation halfcourt shot was off the mark.
"We didn't play our best game today," King said. "Luckily, we came out with the 'W,' but we have to play better than that down the stretch and in the playoffs."
Craig Lutes paced NCHS with 16 points, while Harper added 12. The Ironmen shot 42.3 percent from the field and made six of eight free throws.
King, who also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, sank five of his seven baskets from the perimeter.
"His jumper was on and he got some good offensive rebound put-backs," Witzig said. "It will help our team a ton to have another guy knock down some shots for us."
East Peoria, which led 38-35 going into the fourth quarter, shot 40 percent and sank four of five at the line. The Raiders held a 29-26 rebounding advantage, but their 17 turnovers were five more than NCHS.
Ott proved to be a matchup nightmare for the Ironmen. He scored outside (three 3-pointers) and inside. Ott also blocked King's inside attempt with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 43-all.
The ending, though, left East Peoria stunned and NCHS relieved.
"When you have 0.6 (left) you hope for a miracle, and we got one," Witzig said.