Baylor senior Sammy Lupas picked a fine time Saturday to hoist his first 3-point shot in a high school varsity basketball game. But under the circumstances he didn't have much choice.
With the ball under their basket and 1.2 seconds showing on the clock, the Red Raiders trailed Pope John Paul II by two points in their Division II-AA first-round state playoff game. After catching the ball in the left corner, Lupas launched his 3-point shot that splashed through the net and lifted Baylor past the Knights 64-63.
Baylor (15-8) will travel to Memphis to take on Christian Brothers in the sub-state round next Saturday.
"We have a play called 'Circle' where everybody loops around looking for an opening," Lupas said. "I locked eyes with Austin Maize, who was inbounding the ball, and got a pass there in the corner and shot it. It felt good when it came off my hand."
Baylor coach Austin Clark said the shot was not out of Lupas's range -- it's just not part of his normal game. The coach added that it was Lupas who made two free throws with no time showing to help the Red Raiders beat Montgomery Bell Academy by a point earlier in the season.
"He'll step out there playing H-O-R-S-E with you and make it," Clark said of Lupas's abilty to shoot from behind the arc. "He's had a knack for making big plays for us, too. He really plays hard every possession."
Clark said he was proud of his team's effort "for three and a half quarters." Baylor had led from the time it went up 4-2 until Pope John Paul II tied the game on a free throw by Austin Whitmer with 1:02 to play. The Red Raiders led 49-40 when leading scorer Matt Clendenen fouled out on a charging call with 5:17 to play. And even after that they were up by 14 after Tyler Seaberg made two free throws with 4:30 to go.
But the Knights' full-court pressure began creating numerous problems for the Red Raiders. PJPII had one stretch inside the last minute and a half in which they outscored Baylor 11-0 in a 31-second span -- the last two points giving the Knights a 61-59 lead.
"We made some turnovers," Clark said. "It's been a problem all year long, trying to protect leads when defensive pressure gets after us."
The Knights were ahead 63-61 when Baylor inbounded with 6.8 seconds remaining and Gage Upshaw drove the length of the floor. After his pass toward a teammate was batted over the endline by PJPII, it set the stage for Lupas.
Clendenen, a classmate of Lupas, said it was a helpless feeling to watch the final five-plus minutes from the bench.
"I knew my teammates could pull through for us," said Clendenen, who scored 15 points. "It definitely went through my mind my career here could be over. He hit the hardest shot on the court. He's a really good shooter. I'm just glad he knocked it down."
Lupas and Amedeo Guissani each scored 13 points for the Red Raiders, and Upshaw added 12.
Ryan Hatten's 23 points led the Knights. Riley Long and Jalon Cambridge contributed 10 each.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.