St. David’s School senior Robbie O’Han had the ball in his hands with less than 14 seconds on the clock, the Warriors down one.
A few moments before, Asheville Christian Academy hit two free throws to take a one-point lead, its first of the game. O’Han brought the ball up and tried to run some offense with his teammates. The defense held firm and the seconds continued to tick away.
Six seconds…5…O’Han got the ball on the left wing…4…O’Han drove hard into the heart of the Lions defense…3…O’Han lofted a floater – a prayer, perhaps – and it banked in with 2.9 seconds remaining to give St. David’s a 58-57 quarterfinal lead. A pair of Warriors free throws gave then a 60-57 win over the fourth-seeded Lions in the N.C. Independent School Athletic Association Thursday at North Raleigh Christian Academy.
“I just thought, ‘Be aggressive,’ ” said O’Han, one of three St. David’s seniors. “I’ve been taking it to the hole and they’ve been fouling me, so at least I’ll get a foul. I ended up finishing the layup.”
Warrior coach Will Coley said O’Han has been reliable throughout the season.
“It’s the type of plays he’s made all year,” Coley said. “Robbie, he doesn’t shy away from the moment. He’s grown up a lot. That’s just what we’ve been accustomed to this year.”
O’Han’s heroics pushed his team over the top, but his energy and the rest of his 14 points were just as big. And it wasn’t just O’Han, as Coley added “him and (Kris) Monroe, they’re two guys when you need a play, they definitely get it done.”
Without O’Han, the No.4 Warriors (22-3) don’t win. But without Monroe, they don’t have the opportunity to win at the end.
Monroe carried his team and led all scorers with 27 points, showing his versatility with a couple 3s, some putbacks, a low-post move and a transition dunk.
It’s hard to overlook the the Warriors’ role players, too. No other player hit more than two field goals, but there was a strong combined effort from the rest of the roster. In the last 2 minutes of the first half, St. David’s got a jumper from Jack Dunn, a drop-step layup from Blake Sanders and a contested fast-break finish from Harrison Benson to push the halftime lead to 10.
Asheville Christian (19-9) wouldn’t back down, however. It changed up the defense and came out of the break on a 7-0 run to make it a one-possession game. Led by wingman Jordan Shepherd’s 18 points and Chris Clayton’s 17 on the inside, the Lions clawed their way back, finally pushing ahead in the final 15 seconds.
“They’re a good team,” Coley said. “They’ve been in the tournament many years. They’re well coached. Their size, it bothered us. It wore us down at the end. They started to win the battle on the inside at the end. I just told my guys we got to hold on.”
St. David’s moves on to play top-seeded Northside Christian Academy Friday in the semifinals. With two playoff wins already in his final season, O’Han is looking for a third.
“This is what you play for,” O’Han said. “We’re not done though.”