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McAuley boys escape first round of home tourney

Jan. 30—Prior the start of the Mercy/Warrior Classic, McAuley Catholic head coach Tony Witt said his team has to have a good game from his three leaders in Michael Parrigon, Rocco Bazzano-Joseph and Bradley Wagner.

The trio tallied 41 of McAuley's 55 points and Wagner made the game-winning shot with eight seconds left to clinch the 55-54 victory over Providence Christian Academy (Rogers, Arkansas) in the first round of the tournament on Tuesday night at McAuley Catholic High School.

The third-seeded Warriors (11-8) led by as many as 10 in the third quarter but had to fend off a late charge by the sixth-seeded Patriots.

"In the last two years, we've lost a total of 16 games by 40-some points," Witt said. "We lost 11 games by 32 points last season. So, we've been in late-game situations. We've practiced about every situation we can think of. What that was, was our resiliency to not let that happen again."

What Witt is referring to is what unfolded in the final eight minutes. But you could even narrow it down to the final 2:29. That's when the coach took a timeout to talk things over after his team coughed up the lead for the second time that quarter.

Down 52-51, Wagner caught the ball on the baseline, rose up and drilled a jump shot over his defender to put McAuley back ahead with two minutes to play.

Providence missed a shot. McAuley missed. Providence missed again and Witt took another timeout with 1:21 to play. His game plan was clearly to burn the clock in the final 80 seconds.

Parrigon was fouled and sent to the free throw line as the Patriots put the Warriors in the bonus with a fifth foul in the quarter and 35 seconds to play. Parrigon missed both charities.

This time, Providence's head coach Velton Kennedy took a timeout with 25.7 to go.

Freshman Carson Housley quickly found a driving lane and cashed in on a floater in the lane to put the Patriots on top 54-53 with 18 seconds left.

The Warriors flew down floor, Parrigon brought the ball up and got himself into the corner area and was trapped. He patiently waited for a teammate to get open and found Connor Taffner.

"I knew someone had to be open. I just saw Connor (Taffner) open and pump-faked them and threw it under," Parrigon said of avoiding a turnover in crunch time.

Taffner dribbled into the lane and put up a floater. It hit the back of the rim, the right side and kicked out. But under the rim waiting for the rebound was Wagner, who rose up and put the ball back up and in to make it 55-54 with eight seconds left.

"That's just guys playing basketball," Witt said. "We don't run a lot of sets. We have quicks and what-not, but I'd rather teach my guys how to play and in that situation you just have to trust them."

Providence inbounded the ball, took a dribble and heaved up a three-quarter court shot that didn't go. There was enough time for a couple more dribbles to get a little closer.

"Last year, we couldn't pull these out. And then this year it's just completely different. Always, always, always. We just have a lot more grit," junior guard Parrigon said.

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McAuley led 46-41 to start the final frame. Wagner pushed it up to 48-41 but then Providence began its comeback, scoring 7 in a row behind two 3-point shots from freshman Luke Fugate and took a 49-48 lead. That was its first lead since the score was 22-21 in the second quarter. Fugate also had not scored until those two shots.

There were seven lead changes and five ties in the first half. After a third quarter that had McAuley Catholic leading the entire eight minutes, there were six more lead changes in the final period.

The Warriors had to earn this win with multiple players out of the contest. Alex Bohachick and Max Anreder were two of the key contributors to miss.

"I'm just ecstatic with our guys and where we're at right now. Just that fight and resilience to not give up," Witt said. "It was all heart that last 90 seconds."

McAuley will meet the No. 2 seed Southwest Missouri RUSH at 8 p.m. Thursday to play for a spot in the championship game.

No. 2 RUSH vs. No. 7 Thomas Jefferson

RUSH was hitting its shots and never stopped looking to score on Tuesday night with a 94-16 victory over Thomas Jefferson.

RUSH led 50-6 at the half.

The Cavaliers were led by Jack Twiss' 8 points. RUSH got five players in double figures and were led by Garrett Rudy's 32.

Thomas Jefferson (3-17) will face Providence at 5 p.m. on Thursday in the consolation semis.