TAYLORVILLE — Teutopolis needed something extraordinary to happen toward the end of the third quarter while its chances faded away.
The least likely player on the floor answered its prayers.
Teutopolis senior center Lane Belleville chucked a shot across the court and drained the first-ever 3-pointer in his high school career at the buzzer to spur a late rally for a 66-62 victory over Taylorville on Saturday.
“I was in a lot of shock,” Belleville said. “I didn't make much emotion because I didn't think it was going in. I just went to the bench and tried to get my teammates pumped up. We came out a lot stronger I thought in the fourth quarter.”
It helped jumpstart a stunning 16-4 run for the Class 2A No. 4 state-ranked Shoes, which avoided back-to-back losses after falling at Breese Mater Dei 69-64 the previous night.
When senior guard Mitch Hardiek capped the onslaught with a 3, Teutopolis (19-3) suddenly led 55-54 with five minutes left.
“I've never been a part of the game — and I've coached for about 20 years — where we had a shot like that at the end of the quarter,” Teutopolis coach Jason Hanson said. “It really ended up propelling us to a win. That shot was huge.
“We've probably had six or seven go in (at the buzzer) against us this year and we haven't had one. For us to get one and be able to come back is big.”
Although its lead vanished, Class 3A Taylorville (11-10) responded and appeared it may weather through the adversity until another major hiccup.
After Taylorville's Caleb Roethemeyer fouled out with a 58-55 advantage and 3:31 on the clock, he was assessed a technical.
Teutopolis took advantage and surged ahead for good 61-58 with under three minutes left.
“Big emotional swings in this game,” Taylorville coach Ryan Brown said. “But I thought our team played a really good basketball game tonight. That's as about as good as we can play. To be up by double digits against a team like T-Town, you know you're playing good basketball.”
Hardiek clinched the victory at the line for the Shoes.
He converted seven of eight free throw attempts in the fourth quarter and finished with a team-high 21 points.
Lee Hardiek contributed 11 points while Belleville had nine.
“We made our free throws,” Mitch said. “Last night at Mater Dei, we struggled with that and it's probably one of the reasons we lost. But tonight, we got the job done with our free throws.”
It overshadowed sophomore Jack Livingston's impressive night for Taylorville.
The sophomore guard came off the bench and fueled the Tornadoes with seven 3-pointers and a game-high 25 points.
He carried Taylorville to a 33-31 halftime lead with 11 points in the second quarter and he didn't cool down in the third.
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Teammates Logan Clayton and Jordan Moats often drove to the hoop and kicked out to Livingston for the open shot.
The Tornadoes led by as much as 50-39 with 1:23 remaining in the third quarter.
Clayton and Moats posted 14 and 10 points, respectively.
“He started the first part of the season really well and he was scoring really well,” Brown said of Livingston. “We've just morphed this year with starting lineups. But he looked like he was back. He looked really good tonight and he reaped the benefits of the defense collapsing on Jordan and Logan, and Jack's able to step up and knock down shots.”
Taylorville tried to bleed out the clock before Belleville's full-court shot.
Clayton pulled up with the 3 and had a good look, but it bounced out with hardly any time to spare.
Belleville pulled the rebound away from Mitch Hardiek and quickly heaved it.
“My one teammate Mitch was yelling, 'I got it! I got it!' I grabbed it and I immediately turned and looked at the clock,” Belleville said. “I knew I could get one more step before I threw it and I did.”
“That was a crazy shot Lane had there,” Mitch said. “We debated who wanted to have the ball. Luckily Lane grabbed the board and took the full-court shot. It was a Hail Mary and I'm not sure how it went in.”
Teutopolis played without senior guard Chris Ungrund for the second consecutive game.
He suffered a stress fracture in his back and the Shoes are unsure when he will return.
Mitch Hardiek said Ungrund is one of the team's primary defenders and ball-handlers.
That maybe explained the 17 turnovers by Teutopolis. Taylorville had just nine.
“We can't replace him because he's one of the best players,” Mitch said. “He's a phenomenal player and it's hard to replace that. But we have to get going as a team and pick things up.”
“We needed this win very bad. We just didn't play well that night against Breese Mater Dei. We haven't played well in the last couple of games and even tonight there were some things we didn't do right. We're just trying to get back in the pattern of playing right and hustling hard. I think this is a real help boosting us.” – Belleville