Rock Island’s timing was impeccable. The Trail Men’s Basketball League’s defending champion battled back all night against Mota Automotive, scoring the go-ahead basket with mere seconds left on the clock to repeat as TMBL champions on Monday at the RSS Gym in Rossland.
Down 66-64 with time winding down, Rock Island’s Mike Flewelling was fouled and went to the free-throw line with the championship game hanging in the balance. Flewelling stepped up and drained the first basket to pull the Tape Centre within one. But on his second attempt, the ball clunked off the rim, bounced off a couple rebounders, and, somehow landed back in Rock Island’s possession.
“It was kind of a scrambly play, everyone was kind of all over the place,” said Flewelling. “Defence was scrambling, we were scrambling at the ball.”
Rock Island worked the ball around the perimeter looking for a clean shot, when Mota redirected a pass, almost forcing the turnover. But Flewelling corralled the pill in the paint, and made an incredible off-balance shot to put the Rock up 67-66.
“I saw Wayne and I just had to attack. There was probably 15 seconds left, so it almost seemed that everyone was hesitant to take the final shot, but someone had to do it I guess.”
Mota had time to in-bounds the ball and have one more shot, but a steal at mid-court by Kade James sunk Mota’s hopes. James was then fouled with 0.6 seconds remaining and after sinking his first basket, he threw the ball off the backboard to prevent a last gasp from Mota.
“It was an emotional game, it always is when we play them,” said Flewelling. “A lot of talking back and forth, we’re both very competitive teams so it gets emotional at times I guess.”
Mota threatened to run away with the game many times over the course of the match. They jumped out to a 21-15 lead before Rock Island went on a 9-0 run to go up 24-21.
Mota surged ahead again, rolling to a 39-31 advantage at half time. However, Rock Island refused to go quietly, as the lead changed throughout the second half. Rock Island’s James hit a three-point play on a hoop-and-harm to give the Rock a 60-58 edge with six minutes to play, but Mota’s Kyle Soukeroff finished a couple of dazzling runs with back-to-back lay-ups to put Mota ahead 66-61 with 2:44 left on the clock.
Mota had their chances to put the game away, but missed opportunities combined with stellar defence from twin towers Jacob Knight and Brian Dimaio gave Rock Island the window they needed as they pulled to within two to set up Flewelling’s last-minute heroics.
“Everyone was really good,” said Flewelling of his teammates. “All year everyone is playing with six or seven guys so coming down to the end you have to kind of dig in, everyone’s super tired, but everyone did that.”
James led the Rock in scoring with 16 points, Dimaio netted eight, and Brody Klenk added three from long distance, while Stephen Mota sunk 26 points for Mota and Soukeroff 17.
In the match for third place, Rossland defeated Northport 65-59.