The color purple was all Kyle Shouse needed to see. He just had to open his eyes.
The Middletown High School senior crafted a lifetime memory Saturday night and stunned Wilmington by banking in a 3-pointer at the buzzer at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.
Shouse admitted he didn’t call the bank, but he was happy to take it and the 54-53 victory that gave the Middies a Division I district championship.
“After I shot it, to be honest, my eyes went shut. I think I said a little prayer,” Shouse said. “When I opened them, I saw my team running at me. That’s how I knew it went in.”
It was a fantastic finish that produced a pile of purple in the middle of the floor and prompted Middletown coach Mark Baker to sprint around the court.
“Kyle’s made big shots for us this year,” Baker said. ” The last couple months he’s really been struggling with his shot. But I told the guys early on, when I first got the job, he was the first person I called. I heard he was the best shooter in Middletown, and I said, ‘Anytime you get the ball son, you shoot it.’
“I think the guys are back to believing in what they’re doing, and I’m just so happy for them.”
The Middies will return to Xavier on Wednesday to meet top-ranked Moeller (23-1) in a regional semifinal at 8 p.m. The Crusaders bounced Fairborn 55-43 on Saturday.
“They’re not No. 1 for nothing,” Baker said. “We’re going to enjoy this and get ready for Moeller. We’ll be ready.”
Vincent Edwards collected 20 points, five rebounds and eight assists Saturday for Middletown (19-6), which ran its winning streak to eight.
The Purdue University recruit fired in a 3-pointer to tie the game at 51-51 with 24 seconds left, but the Hurricane’s Jarron Cumberland responded with two free throws with 14.5 on the clock.
Out of timeouts, the Middies inbounded the ball to Edwards, who came down the floor and drove to the right of the lane. All he saw was a wall of bodies, so he threw back to his left and connected with Shouse, whose shot found glass, then the bottom of the net.
“I saw him open by the time I dribbled over and the third person was there,” Edwards said. “In my mind, I was making sure we got the last shot. That’s all it was.
“I know Shousie loves the big moments, and we practice that shot every day after practice. If he’d have missed, it would’ve been tragic, but I have faith in my teammate. You’ve got to trust your teammates.”
Edwards’ reaction to the basket?
“It was a miracle,” he said. “I crashed just in case. But when I saw it bank through, the first thing I did was run a 40-yard dash straight to Kyle.”
It was a play Middletown runs often, but no play was called. It was up to Edwards to drive and make a decision.
“We did what we do every day in practice,” Shouse said. “I like to screen and pop open, and that’s exactly what happened. I love shooting at the top of the key, so I set a screen at the top and I was just open.”
Baker admitted he was looking for a 2-pointer to tie rather than the trey.
“Kyle hit the shot, but for Vince to trust him, I thought that was huge,” Baker said. “I think that says something for their chemistry, their friendship, just being seniors who believe in each other.”
It was sheer agony for Wilmington coach Mike Noszka. The Hurricane only had four fouls in the second half, but chose not to foul at the end.
“The clock was running down, and Edwards has nowhere to go,” Noszka said. “I can just remember looking at the clock. He had the ball with 3-point-something left. Somehow No. 5 got loose, and he threw him the ball. We weren’t supposed to leave 5, but it happened.
“It’s just massive disappointment. It’s brutal. We’re proud of our kids here in Wilmington. They give this town and this school everything they’ve got. Always have, always will.”
The Cumberland cousins lived up to their billing for Wilmington (20-6), with Jaevin getting 23 points and Jarron marking 18 points and eight boards.
The Hurricane converted 19 of 28 foul shots, and the Middies were 5 of 7 at the line. Middletown shot 47.7 percent from the field, 57.1 percent after halftime.
Khylan Jackson scored 15 points for the Middies before fouling out with 1:41 left.
Wilmington 19 8 14 12 — 53
Middletown 15 11 11 17 — 54
WIL (20-6): Garrett Scott 3 1 8, Jaevin Cumberland 6 9 23, Marty Beaugard 1 0 3, Harley McPherson 0 1 1, Jarron Cumberland 4 8 18. Totals: 14-19-53.
MID (19-6): Kobie Johnson 1 0 2, Kyle Shouse 2 0 6, Vincent Edwards 8 3 20, Chance Sorrell 2 0 4, Vincent Calhoun 1 0 3, Jordann Thomas 2 0 4, Khylan Jackson 5 2 15. Totals: 21-5-54.
3-pters: WIL 6 (Jarron Cumberland 2, Jaevin Cumberland 2, Scott, Beaugard); MID 7 (Jackson 3, Shouse 2, Edwards, Calhoun)
REGIONAL TICKETS ON SALE: Tickets for Wednesday’s Middletown-Moeller regional semifinal will be on sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Middletown athletic office.
All presale tickets are $6, and the school receives a percentage of the presale money. All tickets at the door will be $8.
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