MAHOMET — The hero’s hat didn’t exactly fit Rantoul’s Johnny Jones at halftime of Friday’s Corn Belt Conference game.
The junior guard had attempted one shot — and missed it.
Even with more than three quarters of the game completed, Jones was viewed as an unlikely star of the game.
The Eagles trailed the home team by 10 points as the clock wound down to seven minutes remaining in regulation. Jones’ point total stood at seven.
If there had been no telltale signs earlier, there were plenty thereafter. Jones torched Mahomet-Seymour for 14 points in the final 7:03 of regulation — including 4 of 4 on three-point shots — and a team that never once led after the opening minute of the second quarter regained control in overtime to secure a 77-75 triumph.
“Jones put the team on his back and carried them,” M-S coach Chad Benedict said. “He hit deep shots against our zone and deep shots against our man. He’s hard to guard.”
For Rantoul’s Brett Frerichs, it was the first time in his coaching career — covering both girls and boys — he’d finished a game at M-S with a win.
“That was the real Johnny Jones,” Frerichs said. “We’d been waiting to see when he’d appear, and he appeared in the fourth quarter. He was the quarterback on the floor we’ve been looking for.”
Jones was relatively quiet in OT, adding two free throws to his team-high point total of 23, but another junior, Devine Thompson, stepped into the starring role.
Thompson had one basket during regulation but scored the first three Rantoul field goals of the extra session, staking the Eagles to a 70-64 lead at the two-minute mark of OT.
“He’s capable of that,” Frerichs said. “He was all-tournament at Gibson City but had struggled a little. He woke up and got his swagger back.”
Thompson finished with 10 points, seven in OT.
Had the outcome been reversed, M-S had plenty of potential Player of the Game candidates. Brad Herrmann nailed five first-half three-pointers and ended with 25 points. Junior teammate Sam Hohlfelder displayed uncanny second-half shooting.
He knocked down 9 of 12 second-half shots — four of which were three-pointers — and amassed a game-high 26 points. His buzzer-beating three-point attempt at the end of OT was off target and Rantoul (4-6) was able to snap a six-game losing skid.
“I had a slow start,” Jones said, “but the team needed me. Coach said to go out and have fun. We did a lot of shooting before we came here. I felt it tonight.”
Frerichs said there’s more to Jones than his three-point prowess.
“He has worked on his shot more than anyone, but in my opinion, he’s one of the best point guards in the area,” Frerichs said. “He can take his man off the dribble any time. Tonight, he was a different player.”