Breaking down the final four seconds of the Quincy High School vs. Normal Community Class 4A sectional final


Quincy High School's Ralph Wires throws the ball back toward the basket while falling out of bounds during Friday night's Class 4A sectional game at Dawson Hawkins Gymnasium in Pekin. Defending the play is Normal Community's Braylon Roman. | David Adam photo

PEKIN, Ill. — It seemed so simple, right? 

Get the ball inbounds, let Normal Community foul, make a couple of free throws and force the Ironmen to take a desperation heave at the end.

However, the Ironmen didn’t allow for the baseline inbounds play with 4.3 seconds left to be simple for the Quincy High School boys basketball team. A turnover led to a game-winning dunk for the Ironmen and a 44-43 setback for the Blue Devils in the Class 4A Sectional at Dawson Hawkins Gymnasium on Friday night.

Reviewing the game’s ending won’t help make sense of the miracle that occurred, but it will explain how it happened.

Quincy took the lead at 43-42 with 21 seconds to play on Dom Clay’s 3-pointer. Normal Community had a chance to regain the lead, but a 10-foot jumper by Braylon Roman rimmed out. Quincy’s Keshaun Thomas grabbed the rebound (interestingly, on the left side of the rim) and was fouled from behind by the Ironmen’s Jaheem Webber with 4.3 seconds remaining.

The foul was only the fourth of the fourth quarter for the Ironmen, so Thomas was not awarded free throws. After a timeout, QHS inbounded the ball on the right side of the basket. Normal Community coach Dave Witzig put the 6-foot-10 Webber in front of Tyler Sprick, who inbounded the ball for the Blue Devils on the baseline.

“The plan was just to get a deflection, maybe possibly,” Webber said after the game.

Asked if he got a hand on the ball, Webber said, “I don’t think so. (Sprick) just threw it. I’m really long, you know, and they threw a bad pass.”

“I was hoping for a five-second call or something lucky,” Witzig said.

During the timeout before the play, Quincy coach Andy Douglas said he reminded his team about the two timeouts available “if we were in a tough situation.”

When Sprick returned to the floor, the game official made sure to point to the floor — indicating Sprick could not move — before handing him the ball.

Also important to note is Douglas couldn’t move, either. He had to remain in his seat on the bench for the last nine minutes of the game because of a technical foul charged earlier to the QHS bench.

After Normal Community’s Kobe Walker slipped and fell trying to retrieve a loose ball in the third quarter, QHS reserve Rico Clay stood and taunted him, earning the technical. Roman made 1 of 2 free throws, and the Blue Devils lost possession of the ball. However, the restraint to the bench also impaired Douglas’ communication with his team.

Sprick took the ball and faked twice to his right. Dom Clay, who started at midcourt, sprinted along the sideline toward Sprick while in front of Ironmen defender Dexter Niekamp. However, Sprick didn’t look to his left during the play.

Instead, he waited to see what happened with Ralph Wires and Bradley Longcor III. Wires started on the block in front of Sprick, then raced to the opposite corner of the free throw lane to set a screen on Longcor. Niko Newsome fought through the screen by Wires and appeared to have Longcor guarded as he raced to the block in front of Sprick.

After setting the screen for Longcor, Wires then made a diagonal run back to the baseline on the opposite side of the lane with Roman guarding him.

Sprick held the ball for about three seconds before passing it to Wires. Webber’s long arms made the pass go a little wider than Sprick would have liked.

“(Webber’s) big,” Sprick said. “He was sitting there and definitely all over the place. I tried to get it in, but it just didn’t work out.”

Wires tried to catch the pass with his left hand, which has been bandaged for several games late in the season. The ball fell to the floor, and Wires lost his balance as he tried to recover the ball while staying inbounds. His left foot was just an inch or two from touching the baseline.

Roman had his left hand in the middle of Wires’ back as the pass came in. Video angles found on social media after the game Friday night didn’t make it clear if Roman shoved Wires.

“I thought (Roman shoved Wires), but (the officials) didn’t call a foul,” Sprick said. “It sucks that way, but (the officials) didn’t call it a foul. So it’s not a foul.”

“We needed another timeout. We should have called another timeout,” Wires said. “And as I caught the ball, I got pushed out of bounds. I was kind of off balance at the same time, but I got pushed.”

Asked if he saw Wires get pushed, Douglas said, “I have no idea. I didn’t see. I thought he was hustling after (the ball).”

As Wires was falling out of bounds, he rotated his body in midair and threw the ball toward the Normal basket to keep it in play. Most of the players on both teams were congested around the basket. Had Wires thrown the ball toward midcourt, no Normal Community player likely would have grabbed it and got a shot off before the buzzer. 

The closest Blue Devils on the play were Longcor and Sprick, but the pass took one bounce and went right to Webber in the middle of the lane. Sprick, who had walked into the lane and was heading up court, tried to dive back to poke the ball away. Longcor was on the other side of the lane and had no chance to stop Webber.

“I was thinking the time is just going to go out,” Clay said. “I didn’t know there was that much time. I know Ralph himself, and there’s not a lot of things that he knows what to do in those moments. You’re not thinking, ‘Throw it to halfcourt’ or ‘Call timeout’ or just go out of bounds with it. It’s just tough.”

Webber scored just seven points in the game. The last two were the easiest. 

“The game is never over ‘til it’s over, as you saw right there,” he said.

“That was beyond what I was hoping for,” Witzig said. “That’s one of the best moments in Ironman sports history right there.”

Both Wires and Douglas said afterward they didn’t want that one play to define the game.

“We had so many different things that we could have done better as a team,” Wires said. “It is what it is. We’ve got to hope that these guys can pick us up and grab us one next year.”

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