CANONSBURG – Josh Wise had a forgettable beginning to Sunday night’s EQT Energy Classic championship game, scoring just two points during the opening half.
Bet this finish won’t soon be forgotten.
Wise hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with eight-tenths of a second left on the clock to give the Washington High School boys basketball team a 46-43 victory over Canon-McMillan and help the Prexies win the tournament title on the Big Macs’ home floor.
“That shows a lot about our coach and my teammates having faith in me,” Wise said. “I didn’t play my best game at all, but they stuck with me. That means a lot.”
The game-winning play started after Prexies coach Mark Gaither allowed the clock to run down to 15 seconds before calling a timeout.
Jaylin Kelly began the sequence by passing to Darius Spinks, who waited for Wise to circle along the baseline from left to right and pop open, a play that was nearly identical to one the Prexies ran earlier.
“We knew going in that Josh was getting the last shot,” Gaither said. “We ran a play we ran a lot. We just set it up off a double-staggered screen instead. We wanted him to take the last shot and either head into overtime or win the game.”
Wise, of course, won the game. And when he did, he left his right hand hanging and nodded his head a couple times, Wash High’s fans screaming just a few steps to his right.
“I saw the ball hit nothing but net, and my heart dropped,” said Wise, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after scoring 62 points in three games – all wins – including 16 against Canon-McMillan (2-1).
Big Macs coach Rick Bell said in hindsight he should have put 6-2 guard Jake Cadez on Wise at the end, but it was really the case of a good player making a spectacular shot.
“The thing that makes him so tough is that he can shoot it, he can create off the dribble, he’s 6-2, and he can elevate,” Bell said of Wise. “It’s tough to defend him.”
Canon-McMillan guard Brett Haney, who earned MVP honors last year, finished with a game-high 20 points and scored on a floater with 2:17 left to give Canon-Mac a 43-38 lead before the Prexies scored the final eight points of the game.
Billy Edwards led Wash High (3-0) with 18 points, and forward Jordan Drew pulled down nine rebounds.
The first quarter featured four lead changes but only 13 points, as the Big Macs built a 7-6 edge.
Edwards scored six points in the second quarter, and that enabled the Prexies to take a 16-13 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Wash High stretched its lead to five early in the third quarter after a layup from Spinks, but Haney made a 3-pointer and Sam Bohn (six points) finished with a sweet finger-roll to tie the score at 20.
Wise got his game going in the third, scoring seven points, but neither team could separate by more than a couple before the Big Macs opened the fourth quarter by scoring seven consecutive points to take a 37-32 lead following a layup from Cadez (seven points).
The run also featured a three-point play from Cadez, who was fouled on a jumper from the left wing, and a pair of free throws from Haney.
Canon-McMillan led by five on two more occasions, but that 8-0 run and Wise’s heroics made the ending a whole lot more palatable for the Prexies’ leading scorer.
“He could’ve missed 50 shots in a row, and he still has the confidence that he’s going to hit the next one,” Gaither said. “He’s a special player.”