By THE HERALD-WHIG STAFF
LA PLATA, Mo. -- All Clay Pollard did was catch and shoot.
Where he caught the ball and how he shot it is what made the play remarkable.
With top-seeded Marion County and fourth-seeded La Plata tied a 41 with three seconds remaining in the semifinals of the Class 1 District 10 boys basketball tournament, the Mustangs' Luke Stratton set up to throw an inbounds pass from the sideline just above the 3-point stripe.
He lobbed the ball to the basket, just over the arm of a La Plata defender, and watched as Pollard caught the ball under the basket and, in one motion, threw it high off the backboard. His shot came straight down through the net, giving Marion County a 43-41 victory and a spot in the district championship game.
"It was miserable until the last three seconds," Marion County coach Ryan Wood said. "Then it was fun."
Marion County (19-7) advances to face second-seeded North Shelby, which overcame a six-point deficit to beat Bevier 50-47, at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
"It was nip-and-tuck all the way through," North Shelby coach Todd Cripe said. "We ran some good half-court sets in the fourth quarter and really buckled down defensively. And we get to keep playing."
It was a little more dire for Marion County, which trailed by four points in the final minute.
With less than 40 seconds to play and trailing 40-36, the Mustangs' Reed Plunkett drove the middle of the lane and put up a floater while being fouled. He made the basket, but missed the free throw.
However, Stratton corralled the offensive rebound and kicked the ball out to Logan Krigbaum on the wing. Despite not having attempted a shot the entire game, Krigbaum launched and made a 3-pointer for a one-point lead.
"It wasn't like he was wide open," said Wood, whose team fell behind by seven after La Plata went on a 22-2 run. "He had a defender coming out in his face. But he drilled it. That was a huge momentum builder."
La Plata drew a foul on its ensuing possession, but made only 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game at 41. Marion County used a timeout with 11 seconds left, but with a foul to give before putting the Mustangs in the bonus situation, La Plata fouled at the top of the key with three seconds to go.
That led to Pollard's highlight-reel play.
"It's a pick-the-picker type play," Wood said. "The second pick was not made very good, so things kind of were jumbled. Luke was looking for Clay all the way, and they timed it perfect."
After watching Marion County escape, North Shelby did the same.
Leading by three points at halftime, the Raiders didn't score the first 5 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter and were limited to five points in the third quarter. However, North Shelby turned the tables on Bevier in the fourth quarter, holding the Wildcats to five points.
"The biggest adjustment we made was defensively," Cripe said. "We did a better job in the fourth quarter of locating shooters and contesting shots."
Kendle Smith hit two big free throws as well, knocking down a pair with three seconds remaining for a three-point edge.
Smith finished with 13 points, while Lucas Daniel led North Shelby (18-9) with 15 points.