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Boys basketball: Wilhelmi buzzer-beater lifts H-BC, shocks Adrian

Tim Middagh/Daily Globe Adrian's Ryan Wieneke (20) blocks a shot by Hills-Beaver Creek's Preston Wilhelmi (12) in the Patriots' victory on Tuesday in Adrian. Wilhelmi later became the star, making the game-winning basket from 3-point range just before the buzzer sounded.1 / 2
Tim Middagh/Daily Globe Adrian's Mitchell Lonneman (44) shoots over Hills-Beaver Creek defenders Trenton Bass (13) and Zach Scholten in the Patriots' victory in Adrian on Tuesday.2 / 2

ADRIAN -- When the final seconds ticked off … 5, 4, 3 … Hills-Beaver Creek guard Preston Wilhelmi was backing up, under intense pressure. With 2.5 seconds showing on the game clock, his head was down, and to the crowd it appeared as if he wasn’t going to get a shot off in time. He was a long way from the basket -- surely farther away than he wished to be -- maybe as much as six feet beyond the 3-point arc at the top of the key.

Suddenly, Wilhelmi took one step back, raised his head and fired the ball skyward. It kissed off the far rung of the rim and fell straight through the net.

Game over.

Wilhelmi’s shot broke a 64-64 tie with the Adrian Dragons and gave H-BC a dramatic 67-64 win in a game pitting two boys basketball teams with identical 4-0 Red Rock Conference records. It stunned the home-town Adrian crowd. Heck, it stunned everybody.

“I didn’t think he knew how much time was left,” said Adrian head coach Blake Miller.

Veteran Hills-Beaver Creek coach Steve Wiertzema said the Patriots had set up three options to get off the final shot, but the Dragons played defense as if they were in the H-BC huddle. They brought extra help to stop the screen-and-roll involving Zach Scholten and Trenton Bass, and it all came down to the 5-9 sophomore.

“We got it to Wilhelmi, which was the third option, but they were guarding him closely,” Wiertzema said.

Up until that point, Wilhelmi had played an outstanding floor game -- aggressively on defense and smartly as a ball-handler. But he wasn’t shooting particularly well.

Still, Wiertzema had confidence in him with the game on the line. His teammates, too, had reason for optimism.

“I knew that when he got the ball, that he’d hold it for the last shot -- he has that much confidence,” Wiertzema said. “And I’m sure the rest of the team wanted him to keep it.”

He almost kept it for too long. But after the game, Wilhelmi said he knew, indeed, where the clock was at. He realized, he said, at six seconds that he had to do something.

Then finally … “I made one more dribble back and I pulled it.”

Before the made basket fell to the floor, Wilhelmi raised his index finger skyward and backpedaled as his teammates mauled him. The hero reacted as if he knew it was going to be good from the moment he let it go.

“I’ve never hit a game-winning buzzer-beater like that before,” a calmer Wilhelmi said in the locker room afterward. “I had a feeling it was kind of going to go in, but my view was blocked by (the defender). Then I saw it at the last second.”

The final moments were fitting for a game that was chocked full of ebb and flow. Adrian, trailing 4-0 early, took an 18-10 lead on a Ryan Wieneke 3-point shot -- his 10th point of the game. The Patriots fought back by becoming more aggressive on defense. By pressing and coming up with a bunch of steals, they assumed a 35-27 lead just before the half on a 3-pointer by Scholten -- H-BC’s only 3-pointer of the half.

Jacob Stamer got hot for Adrian early in the second half, and at the 10-minute mark the Dragons pulled even at 50-50. Hills-Beaver Creek scored the next six points but the Dragons tied it up again 62-62 with 1:45 left on a Mitchell Lonneman jumper in the lane.

With the score tied at 64 on another Lonneman fielder, the teams went to a time-out with 58 seconds remaining and the possession with the Patriots. At :15.9 -- still without a shot being attempted -- Adrian took a time-out to talk it over some more.

In the final 15 seconds, Adrian did everything right defensively. But Wilhelmi won the game, anyway.

“I didn’t really know what to think at first. Then everybody swarmed me,” he said.

“He made a great play,” said a disappointed Miller. “He’s a great scorer, he’s a great shooter, and he’s a great player.”

Scholten led all scorers with 27 points and 15 rebounds. Wilhelmi finished with 10.

Wieneke and Stamer scored 17 and 16 points, respectively, for Adrian. Zachary Hendel added 10. Lonneman had eight rebounds.

Adrian, which defeated Minneota on Monday, is 7-4 overall. H-BC is 6-2.

Wiertzema said he was happy to stay unbeaten in conference play, but he cautioned that there’s still a lot of season left.

“I look at our conference as really balanced at the top,” he pointed out. “And I’ve said at the beginning that the winner could have two losses.”

Hills-Beaver Creek 35 67Adrian 27 64
Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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