WATERVILLE — When he got the ball with approximately four seconds left, Temple Academy senior Noah Shepherd knew two things. One, the play his team had drawn up to get Illija Ivokovic the final shot wasn’t going to work, and two, he had an open lane to the hoop.

“The second I got the ball, I realized Illija had been double, tripled teamed. They were expecting and waiting for him to drive to the basket,” Shepherd said. “The second I caught it I knew they weren’t going to be in position to guard me. I just drove. The second I let it go, I knew it was going in.”

Shepherd’s layup at the buzzer lifted Temple Academy to a 43-41 East/West Conference win over Valley, in a game between the second and third-ranked teams in the Class D South Heal Point standings. Temple, now 10-4, is still in third place, but the win over No. 2 Valley (9-5) narrowed the gap.

Temple coach Scott Corey called timeout with 14.3 seconds left to set up the final shot.

Temple Academy’s Gabriel Burgett (4) center, battles for the loose ball with Valley’s Zachary Walter with help from teammate Nathan Wiles (32) right, Thursday in Waterville.

“We drew up a play to get the ball to Illija. Give them credit, they took him away. They knew that was where we were going. We just created out of that. Noah got to the rim and finished it,” Corey said.

Valley coach Curtis Miller said his team knew to deny Ivokovic the chance to either drive to the hoop or get space for an open jumper.

“They did everything perfect except for the last two seconds. We were playing tight defense, fronting the post. They ended up getting a good lane, and (Shepherd) went right through,” Miller said.

For Shepherd, the game-winner was just his second basket of the game. The first came a few minutes earlier, giving the Bereans a 37-36 lead in a back and forth fourth quarter.

Valley’s fortunes hinged on senior guard Joey Thomas. When Thomas left the game after picking up his fourth foul with 4:53 to play in the third quarter, the Cavaliers trailed 23-17. With Thomas on the bench, Temple went on a run, pushing its lead to 13 points, 33-20, on an Oscar Camarena layup with 2:07 left in the third. Valley cut the Bereans lead to seven, 33-26, by the end of the third, and with Thomas back in the game in the fourth, the Cavs made their run.

Valley’s Keegan Farnham, left, passes the ball as he is defended by Temple Academy’s Noah Shepherd, right, on Thursday in Waterville.

Thomas scored 14 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, leading Valley’s rally. With 5:12 to play, the Cavs took their first lead since early in the second quarter on a Thomas basket, 36-35. Another Thomas bucket gave the Cavs a 39-37 lead with 3:54 to play.

“(Thomas) controls a lot of the game. Offensively it’s difficult when he’s out. They held their own. It could’ve got out of control. Then he came back and brought them back,” Miller said.

Temple didn’t panic when Valley made its run. The Bereans had seen this before.

“The last couple years, we’ve had a lot of the same situations with Valley. Last year in the (regional) quarterfinals we had a huge lead in the first quarter, and they ended up coming back to win by one at the end of the game,” Shepherd said. “It’s not the first time I’ve seen it, but I knew if we really grit down, we could take it.”

Valley’s Joey Thomas (14) hits the running jumper in between Temple Academy defenders Oscar Camarena (23) and Illija Ivokovic (34) on Thursday at Temple Academy in Waterville.

Marko Ajvaz’s basket with 2:46 left tied the game, 39-39, and Temple took a 41-39 lead on a Stevo Kruta (12 points) shot with 1:23 to play. A pair of Thomas free throws with 53.5 seconds left knotted the game, setting up the Bereans for Shepherd’s game-winner.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.