NEW TAMPA — The final seconds of East Lake’s quarter-century wait for a playoff victory may have been the most excruciating.
The biggest win in Eagles history wasn’t secured until Wharton forward Patrik Hauri’s last-gasp putback attempt rolled on the front of the rim before sliding off, securing a stunning 64-63 East Lake triumph Thursday in the Class 8A region quarterfinals.
“That thing seemed like it was on the rim forever,” Eagles coach Joe Bloznalis said.
On this mesmerizing night, the end seemed apropos for the Wildcats (24-4), who struggled miserably from the floor in the first half before rallying furiously.
The Eagles (20-6), meantime, couldn’t miss.
Senior guard Jeremy Mogged led the way with 25 points, accounting for six of his team’s nine 3-pointers. But Bloznalis said it was his team’s inside presence, rife with second- and third-chance baskets, that was equally pivotal.
Without freshman George Campbell (seven points), senior Blake Grimm (11) or even burly center Dillon Deboer (four), Mogged may have been less effective.
“We’ve been living and dying by the 3s,” Bloznalis said. “We finally got some shots inside. Even if we didn’t make them, we’re okay. … It opened up some inside-outside for us.”
East Lake led by eight at halftime and took its biggest lead when Kyle Mogged opened the second half with a trey. Wharton, however, went on an 18-6 run, with point guard C.J. McGill (23 points) starting and finishing the run with 3-pointers.
That gave Wharton, playing without suspended 6-foot-6 sophomore Chase Litton, a 38-37 lead. From there, the lead changed hands five times. During that final stretch, Jeremy Mogged broke three ties with treys.
“I was just feeling my shot tonight,” he said.
McGill’s trey with 40 seconds to play tied the score at 63. East Lake sank the first of two free throws with 29.6 seconds to play, but missed the front end of a one-and-one with 13 ticks to go, setting up a final ’Cats chance.
Jaken Grier got a nice look on the right wing but missed. Hauri’s missed putback try followed.
“We got a decent look, got a great tip attempt,” ’Cats coach Tommy Tonelli said. “But in hindsight I wish I would’ve called timeout and got us a little more organized and got people in the right spots.”