Hall's late basket lifts Mid-Prairie
WELLMAN — Playing in his first varsity game, Mid-Prairie junior Dayton Hall was nervous at the start of Tuesday’s season opener against Washington.
But by the end of the game, he was cool as a cucumber.
Hall scored a layup while being fouled with 14.6 seconds remaining, and he calmly made the free throw to give the Golden Hawks a two-point lead. Mid-Prairie held on to win 48-46.
“I was pretty nervous at first,” said Hall, who finished with nine points, five rebounds and four steals. “But the second half just felt normal.”
Washington senior Justin Hoffman made the first of two free throws to give the Demons a 46-45 lead with 22.4 seconds remaining. When the second foul shot clanked off the rim, the Golden Hawks pushed the ball down the floor, and Hall scored while being fouled.
“You’re talking about a kid who last year played a complete year of JV basketball and was kind of thrown into the fire this year at point guard,” Mid-Prairie head coach Chris Kern said. “I think Dayton Hall is a kid who you’re going to see, as he gets confidence, get better and better. I think that’s just the tip of where he could be.”
The Demons (0-1) still had one last chance to tie. After calling a timeout with 8.8 seconds remaining, they got the ball to senior Justin Hoffman in the lane. Hoffman got a good look at the hoop, but his 8-foot jumper rolled off the rim.
“We gave ourselves a chance to tie it up,” Washington head coach Bryce Smeins said. “We ran a good out-of-bounds play, and [Hoffman] got a five- or six-footer. It just didn’t go down.”
The fans of both schools were very loud in the game’s final minute, and Mid-Prairie’s student section rushed the court after the final buzzer sounded. The game felt more like a substate final than a season opener.
“I told Coach Smeins afterward that this was like a tournament game more than a first game of the season,” Kern said.
With the win, Kern picked up his first career head coaching victory in thrilling fashion. He became the Golden Hawks’ head man this season after spending 26 years as Don Showalter’s assistant at Mid-Prairie.
“I told the kids that yesterday was my birthday and I feel like they may have taken 10 years off my life tonight,” Kern said.
Kern’s Golden Hawks jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead in the opening minutes of Tuesday’s contest, but the Demons battled back and senior Kyle Roder’s 3-pointer with four seconds remaining in the first half gave Washington a 23-22 lead at the break.
Another Roder 3-pointer gave the Demons their biggest lead of the game — five points — with 5:36 remaining in the game, but then Washington went cold and didn’t score over the game’s next 3½ minutes.
“A five-point lead just wasn’t big enough in that game,” Smeins said. “We just didn’t hit enough shots down the stretch.”
Mid-Prairie’s Elliot Runciman and Reid Miller got inside for layups, and then Hall made a pair of free throws to give the Golden Hawks their first lead since early in the third quarter. Senior David Aldeman put back a missed shot to give Mid-Prairie a 45-42 lead.
But Hoffman scored four straight points — all from the free-throw line — to put Washington ahead before Hall’s late heroics.
“I got the ball, and it was like slow motion to me,” Hall said. “I was just open and it went in.”
Miller scored 11 points to lead Mid-Prairie (1-0).
Hoffman finished with a career-high 13 points, and he also grabbed eight rebounds. Roder hit three 3-pointers and also finished with 13 points. Sophomore Gage Redlinger contributed nine points and seven rebounds off the Demon bench.
“I told our guys that for being on the road in their first game as varsity players, I was happy with how they played,” Smeins said. “I thought we played extremely hard for 32 minutes.”
Hall and the Golden Hawks were pleased to open the season with a win.
“It was exciting,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. I’m pretty happy.”