By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Playing against the storied Oak Hill Academy defense, how did Therence Mayimba get loose for three huge 3-point goals?
Practice makes perfect.
“We went down the sideline and hit 3s off the same play,” Montrose Christian Academy coach Stu Vetter said after his team prevailed 54-53 in triple-overtime Wednesday night. “Sometimes plays work, and sometimes they don’t.”
Mayimba, who had ignited his team from a 14-point deficit earlier in the game with two huge dunks, raced down the right side and fired up a trey early in the fourth quarter to bring his team within one point, 35-34.
The junior, who averages 11 points a game, then saved the day by nailing a 20-footer with 18 seconds remaining to force the third overtime.
He then sealed the deal with a trifecta — from the same spot as the other two — with 2.8 seconds to play.
“Low and behold (the play) worked three times,” Vetter said. “Therence shot the ball well. Athletically, he’s off the chart, and if he shoots the ball consistently, he’s a major college player.”
Oak Hill Academy coach Steve Smith wasn’t happy with how Mayimba kept getting open. His defense had been stellar in a low-scoring, 25-13 first half.
“That was ridiculous. We had two breakdowns (in overtime),” Smith said. “We were matched up with him at halfcourt, but how he goes in the corner and gets open, I don’t know.
“It was a tough shot when the game was on the line, but he made it.”
The excitement at the end probably made fans forget the first half, which saw the teams combine for just 35 shots and 38 points.
“I might have played it too cautiously early-on because we were banged up — we only have eight guys who can play,” Vetter said. “I didn’t know if we could really go with them.”
A stickback and two foul shots by Oak Hill’s Sindarius Thornwell made it 29-15 three minutes into the third quarter. Mayimba then dunked on an alley-oop play, and then on a baseline drive.
The crowd erupted, and Montrose Academy went on a 13-3 run. It was nip-and-tuck the rest of the way.
“We struggled a little bit. It was a slow-paced game,” Smith said. “I was happy to be up 12 at halftime, but we didn’t play well in the third quarter. If we had, we would have won because (Montrose) doesn’t play the tempo that allows you to catch up. They outplayed us.”
A 3 by Thornwell enabled the Warriors to escape regulation with a 43-all tie. Smith stalled throughout the first overtime, but Rokas Gustys’ shot with three seconds remaining did not fall.
Montrose tried a slowdown in the second OT, but Terrence Phillips stole the ball and scored. A foul shot by Lennard Freeman put Oak Hill up by three before Mayimba hit his second trifecta at the 18-second mark.
The third overtime —the best-played period of the night saw five lead changes before Mayimba’s heroics decided the game.
“I’ve been coaching a long time, and there have been a lot of great games against Oak Hill,” Vetter said. “The last time we were here we beat them in double overtime, and in 2006 we slipped it in at the buzzer to win the game.”
Mayimba led the Mustangs with 18 points. Mark Williams scored 14 and Cole Harrison had 13.
R.J. Currington led Oak Hill with 16 points. Phillips had 10.
Montrose Christian (12-5)
Charles Tucker 0-2 3-6 3, Therence Mayimba 7-9 1-2 18, Ishmail Wainright 2-3 0-2 4, Mark Williams 5-12 3-3 14, Cole Harrison 6-6 1-4 13, Justin Robinson 1-4 0-0 2, Dane Pepper 0-0 0-0 0, Taron Oliver 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 21-37 8-17 54.
Oak Hill Academy (19-4)
Sindarius Thornwell 2-2 2-4 7, Troy Williams 2-11 2-2 7, Lennard Freeman 2-5 2-3 6, Terrence Phillips 5-6 0-1 10, R.J. Currington 4-11 4-4 16, Gonzalo Santana 0-0 3-5 3, Khadim Dieng 1-2 0-0 2, Rokas Gustys 1-5 0-0 2. Totals: 17-42 13-19 53.
MCA 8 5 17 13 0 3 8 — 54
OHA 10 15 10 8 9 3 7 — 53
3-point goals — MCA: 4-9 (Mayimba 3-5, Williams 1-2, Robinson 0-2); OHA: 6-15 (Thornwell 1-1, Williams 1-3, Freeman 0-1, Phillips 0-1, Currington 4-9). Fouled out — Thornwell.