When Jerron Love’s jumper didn’t fall, the celebration for Hillgrove began.
Kyle Castlin scored 20 points to help the Hawks barely held off No. 7 Wheeler when Love’s shot at the buzzer hit the front of the rim, giving No. 5 Hillgrove a 56-54 win in the Class AAAAAA semifinals.
This will be Hillgrove’s first trip to the state finals. Wheeler failed in its bid for a sixth state title under coach Doug Lipscomb.
The Hawks (27-4) never trailed after a 15-2 run spanning the third and fourth quarters gave them a 47-39 lead, but it was certainly close, particularly when Wheeler scored 7 straight to make it 49-48 with 3:23 left.
But Hillgrove had just enough gas in the tank, hitting 5 of 8 free throws, including 1 of 2 from Keith Ray with 6.1 seconds left that set up Love’s final attempt.
On that play, the key for Hillgrove was to protect from a loss at all costs. No threes. No easy baskets.
“Just don’t give up a three,” Hillgrove coach Ed Morris said. “If they go and