TAMPA — After his first two tries at a winning shot resulted in grimaces, Chase Litton finally got to crack a smile. Litton’s 15-footer with eight seconds left in overtime Monday gave host Wharton a 54-52 victory over Bloomingdale.
His team down a point, Litton had originally been targeted for an alley-oop with 20 seconds left, but 6-foot-9 Lipscomb commit George Brammeier swatted it away and Litton landed in agony.
“Right on my hip, yet again,” said Litton, who said he nearly shattered the hip playing basketball last season. “I usually wear padding around it but I wasn’t tonight.”
Wharton coach Tommy Tonelli then called a play for point guard Jack Taylor with Litton setting a screen, but Bulls defender Grant Townsend read it. As a result Litton came wide open, and John Christian slipped him the ball in stride for the jumper.
Bloomingdale still had time, but Todd Kaiser was ruled to have stepped out of bounds on the sideline just as he was signalling for a planned timeout. Litton made a free throw in the final seconds then intentionally missed to let the clock run out.
What happened next is something both teams will no doubt remember for the next meeting. Trying to get a shot off Townsend instead found Litton’s face with the ball. Though Townsend said he intended no harm, Tonelli was not happy, sending his team to the lockers without shaking hands.
“He thought we played dirty,” said Bloomingdale coach Joe Willis, who had a fairly animated two-minute discussion with Tonnelli after the finish. “I know we play hard. I’ll have to watch the tape to see if there were any issues.”
The game started off at Bloomingdale’s preferred fast pace, with both teams scoring 22 points. Wharton ramped up the defense to take a 34-29 lead into the break, and was up seven before committing seven third-quarter turnovers, more than its total the rest of the game (five).
Bloomingdale (3-1) took its first lead of the half on Jake Baer’s 3 with 3:50 remaining, but Scott Sollazzo answered with one of his own and it was 47 apiece. The teams exchanged scores before Wharton ran the clock down the final two minutes of regulation, with Litton barely missing an 18-footer at the horn.
Baer (game-high 15 points) hit a 3 to start the overtime but the Bulls did not score again.
Wharton had three players in double figures with Taylor scoring 14, Litton and Christian 12 each. Brammeier went for 12 points and 11 rebounds to lead Bloomingdale and Kaiser had 11, hitting three first-half 3s.
Townsend had six points in his first action of the season after sustaining a broken hand.
The Wildcats (1-2) almost lost their district opener after a spotless 10-0 mark from last year’s state semifinal squad.
“We took them to the brink. We certainly can’t feel bad about losing to Wharton in overtime,” Willis said.