WILMINGTON — Saint Mark’s boys basketball team entered the 2022 DIAA state tournament as the 22nd of 24 seeds. The Spartans pulled out wins in the first two rounds, and they looked to make it three in a row on March 5 at No. 3 Tower Hill.
And they came oh so close. On and on and on the teams played, short on scoring but with plenty of intrigue, until Dylan Shepherd hit a turnaround jumper with about 4 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime to give the Hillers a 43-41 victory and a trip to the semifinals on March 10 at the Bob Carpenter Center.
Saint Mark’s was able to get a timeout with a second remaining. The Spartans inbounds pass was caught and passed to Gavin Marks, but his buzzer-beating attempt was blocked, sealing the win for the Hillers. Tower will meet the 10th seed, Seaford, in the first semifinal on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Saint Mark’s entered the fourth quarter at a jam-packed Carpenter Fieldhouse with a 26-23 lead, and they increased that by two when Chad Dohl was on the receiving end of a save from Max Coughenour and laid the ball in. The Hillers tied the game on a Shepherd field goal, followed a bit later by a three-pointer from D.J. McClendon.
Coughenour and Jabri White restored a four-point lead for Saint Mark’s with a pair of field goals, but Marty Coyne scored off glass with 2:56 to go to cut that in half. Shepherd tied it again with a mid-range jumper 40 seconds later.
The Spartans dribbled nearly a minute off the clock before turning the ball over on a five-second call. Tower Hill took possession with 74 seconds left in regulation, but the Hillers missed on two potential game-winning shots, sending the game to its first extra four minutes knotted at 32.
The Hillers won the tap and immediately spread the floor. They picked up a few offensive rebounds as they kept possession for almost three minutes before finally missing two free throws. Saint Mark’s missed on a shot and fouled Dean Shepherd on the rebound attempt. His free throws put the Hillers up a pair with 32.4 seconds to go.
After missing a shot, the Spartans were fouled. They missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Jabri White grabbed the rebound and took it to the hoop for a spinning shot off glass with 4.7 seconds left. The game headed to a second overtime, but neither team was able to score, necessitating overtime No. 3.
White scored on a runner with 2:45 to go to put the Spartans on top for the first time since late in regulation. The Spartans had possession after two missed free throws by the Hillers, but Dean Shepherd poked the ball free at midcourt and tied the game with a transition layup at the 1:42 mark.
Four free throws — three by the Spartans and one by the Hillers — had Saint Mark’s in front, 39-37, with 11 seconds to go and the Hillers on the line. After Tower missed two free throws, Dylan Shepherd chased down a loose ball, took it into the lane and tied the game as time expired, setting off a frenzied response from the Tower Hill student section right in front of him. It was on to the fourth overtime.
Donovan Artis got the Spartans on the board first with a steal and a layup, but those would be the only points the team would score. Davis Bland tied the game with a pair of free throws halfway through the extra period. Saint Mark’s burned a minute and a half off the clock before missing a shot, and Tower took possession with about 30 seconds left.
Tower moved the ball around until the final seconds, and Dylan Shepherd fnally brought the night to a close with a turnaround jumper from 12 feet that the Spartans were unable to answer.
Unofficially, Dylan Shepherd led the Hillers (18-3) with 17, and Bland added 10. Tower Hill and Seaford met in Sussex County on Dec. 17, a 69-55 Blue Jays win.
For the Spartans, White had 15, and Artis added 8. Saint Mark’s season ended with a record of 14-9.
All photos by Jason Winchell.