Tyler Coble angles his way to a jumper against Zumbrota-Mazeppa during a second-round subsection game. Photo by Keith Garvens.
By David Richards
Another win, another goal accomplished.
The Byron boys basketball team outlasted Lourdes March 9, 43-40, at the Mayo Civic Auditorium in Rochester.
It was the Bears' third, three-point win against the Eagles this season, and it gave Byron a 1AA West subsection championship to go with its Hiawatha Valley League title.
If the Bears (24-4) beat defending state champion Plainview-Elgin-Millville (21-8) on Thursday in the section final, they earn a spot in the state tournament, something no Byron basketball team - girls or boys - has ever done.
"It would be awesome just knowing we'd be the first team," said junior Buster Meyer. "It'd be a great honor."
The subsection West final was a barn burner as expected.
Meyer nailed a pair of free throws with three seconds left to seal the victory.
About 22 seconds earlier, Byron's Jack Nelson also hit two free throws that gave the Bears a one-point lead.
"Buster and Jack stepped up when they needed to," head coach Kerry Linbo said. "That's what leaders do."
Meyer led the team with 17 points, while Nelson added 13. Jacob Schaefer scored a team-high 13 points for the Eagles (21-7), and Michael Dearani tallied nine.
The Bears led 2-0 early off a Nelson bucket, but Lourdes took a 3-2 lead off a Dearani three-pointer.
The Eagles then led by as many as nine points in the first half and held a two-point, 22-20 margin at the break.
"We matchup fairly well with them," Linbo said. "That's why the games are three-point games."
Byron came out strong in the second half, with Meyer driving the lane for the basket and drawing the foul. The three-point play put the Bears up by one, 23-22, with 16:24 left.
After an Eagles miss at the other end, Meyer tallied two more points, clapping his hands with excitement and firing up the Byron faithful.
"Overall, the whole team played well," Meyer said.
As the clock ticked down, the contest went back and forth like a seesaw on a playground.
Joe Smith hit a key, two-point basket to give Byron a 34-29 lead with 4:10 left.
Moments later, Lourdes held a 36-34 advantage with 2:06 to play before a timely three-point shot by Nelson made it 37-36 with 1:44 remaining.
A Brandon Schubert basket made it 39-38 Bears with 1:10 left, but the Eagles retook a 40-39 lead 12 seconds later.
Time and again, the Bears used an aggressive defense to force turnovers.
"I've always thought our defense is what's carried us all year and that was also the case today," Linbo said.
The offense stepped up, too.
With 25 seconds left, Nelson's free throws made it 41-40 Byron, and with Lourdes missing on the next possession, Meyer sealed the win by sinking both baskets of a one and one.
"All I was thinking was I better make them," Meyer said.