If Darryl Howell doesn't have a nickname, he may have earned one last weekend.
Just call him "Mr. Clutch."
The Peoria Manual senior guard came through with a pair of big plays in tense situations to keep the Rams undefeated.
First, the 6-foot-1 Howell made the go-ahead basket in 67-64 overtime victory against Peoria Central in Friday's Mid-State Six Conference opener when he buried a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:12 remaining. It gave the Rams a 64-62 lead, and they iced it with a pair of Javon Lee free throws with 21.5 seconds left.
Then, in Saturday night's matchup with Springfield Lanphier, Howell took a pass from Kashmiere Hughes in the left corner and drained a 3-pointer as time expired for a 66-64 victory.
"They had a look of confidence in their eyes, and they believed in the play that I drew up," Manual coach Derrick Booth told the Peoria Journal Star. "They executed it well. ... We work on that every day in practice -- last-second situations."
Lanphier coach Blake Turner told his team not to foul on the play.
"The officials had quick whistles tonight, so we were cognizant of not getting a foul called and making them shoot something going away from the basket," Turner told the Journal Star. "And hats off to that kid that hit that shot because that's a great shot."
Howell finished with 16 points against Lanphier and 14 against Central, including a high-flying putback dunk.
He wasn't the only Manual player to come through in the clutch. Hughes hit 6 of 8 free throws in a 30-second span of the second half against Central, trimming the Lions lead to just one point. And Justin Williams drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie the score at 55 with eight seconds remaining.
"I struggled the whole game so I knew I needed to get that one," Williams told the Journal Star. "It went in and I felt 10 feet tall."
Unfortunate situation: The Manual-Central rivalry brings out the best in the student-athletes.
It can bring out the worst in the crowd, too. That appears to be what happened last Friday at Manual.
The Rams took a two-point lead midway through the third quarter when a fight broke out in the second level of bleachers.
According to the Journal Star, several plastic bottles were hurled toward the court and students from both schools began to rush the court. Both teams were sent back to their locker rooms.
Peoria police officers and school administrators helped restore
order, but there was a 15-minute delay caused by the fracas.
Crazy ending: Darreon Reddick put the ball on the floor and refused to be denied. That's why Belleville East remains unbeaten.
East St. Louis scored with 11 seconds remaining to take a 65-64 lead in last Friday's Southwestern Conference showdown. Off the ensuing inbounds play, Reddick drove the length of the floor for a layup while being fouled with 4.5 seconds left. He made the free throw for a two-point edge.
Then he nearly gave it away.
Reddick grabbed the Flyers' Justin Smith near midcourt with 1.2 seconds left and was called for an intentional foul. Smith split his free throws to cut the deficit to one, but he missed a 16-foot jumper on the ensuing possession as Belleville East won 67-66.
The Lancers' reward was being tabbed the No. 1 seed for the Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic.
Quite a rally: Anyone trailing Lincoln by eight points at the start of the fourth quarter at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium has typically found that's too big of a hill to climb.
Don't tell Jacksonville that.
The Crimsons held the Railers scoreless in the fourth quarter last Friday night, forcing overtime when Josh Peak made a field goal with 26 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 41.
In overtime, Peak made a pair of free throws to tie the game at 44 with 2:15 remaining before Lincoln sat on the possession. The Railers missed a 3-pointer with 1:42 remaining, grabbed the offensive rebound and didn't attempt to score again until 10 seconds remained.
A 3-point attempt by Lincoln's Will Podbelsek was blocked by Jacksonville's Brendan Barlow, setting up Blake Hance's game-winning shot at the buzzer for a 46-44 victory.
"Utter excitement," Hance told the Jacksonville Journal Courier in describing the moment. "I turned around and saw the whole bench running at me. It was a great feeling."
Lesson learned: Joliet Central coach Jeff Corcoran benched four starters for last Friday's matchup with Lincoln-Way Central because they violated team rules, and brought he five sophomores up to the varsity.
Four of them started.
"The kids who deserve to play will and they can take care of business," Corcoran told the Chicago Sun-Times.
They tried, but the Steelman trailed by 11 points in the third quarter before Corcoran allowed two of his starters to return. That turned the tide. Joliet Central erased the deficit, and senior guard Jonah Coble made two free throws with 8.4 seconds remaining for a 42-40 victory.
"I learned to be smart and make good decisions because I don't want to put my team in jeopardy again like this," Coble told the Sun-Times.