RANTOUL — They'll remember this one for some time in Rantoul.
Playing in front of a raucous capacity crowd, Rantoul overcame a double-digit first-quarter deficit and a five-point deficit in the final three minutes of regulation to come away with a 77-66 overtime win against Corn Belt Conference rival Mahomet-Seymour on Friday night.
"It didn't look good down the stretch, and we turned it up a couple notches on defense," Rantoul coach Brett Frerichs said of his squad, which forced Mahomet-Seymour into 16 turnovers in the second half after the Bulldogs only had five in the first half. "I'm not sure what took us so long, but we got some huge steals down the stretch and converted. We don't win that game unless we put it in another gear on the defensive end."
The Eagles (13-3, 5-1) also don't find themselves in a showdown next Friday night at league leader Normal U-High (12-3, 6-0) without senior guard Travis Britt.
Britt didn't score in the first quarter but poured in a game- and career-high 32 points, including five three-pointers, grabbed 11 rebounds and made three assists to lead Rantoul to its third straight victory and seventh in its previous eight games.
A steal and two-handed fast-break dunk by Britt cut Rantoul's deficit to 61-60 with less than 30 seconds left in regulation, and after Mahomet-Seymour senior guard Garrett Risley made 1 of 2 free throws with 27.6 seconds left to put the Bulldogs (8-8, 4-3) up 62-60, Britt came down and banked in a running 10-foot jump shot with 18 seconds left to tie it at 62. After Rantoul's defense held the Bulldogs on their final possession, the Eagles were headed to their first overtime game of the season.
Rantoul never trailed in overtime, and a traditional three-point play by sophomore guard Johnny Jones (16 points) after his steal near midcourt gave Rantoul a 74-64 lead with one minute left.
"I was a freshman playing varsity (last year), and when I was watching the Mahomet game I was kind of scared to get in," Jones said. "I was kind of nervous at the beginning of the game, but I had to tune them out and listen to Coach."
Britt fed senior forward Darian Dorsey (five points, three steals) on a no-look pass to give Rantoul a 64-62 lead with 3:46 left in overtime, and a minute later Britt nailed a three to push the Eagles' lead to 67-62. A basket inside by senior forward Reid Farchmin with 1:48 remaining cut Mahomet-Seymour's deficit to 67-64, but the Eagles — who also received steady games from senior forward C.J. Morris (11 points, seven rebounds) and senior guard Jackson Carver (eight points, four rebounds) — answered with a 9-0 run to put the game away.
Senior forward Brad Herrmann led the Bulldogs with 21 points and nine rebounds, and senior guard Brad Izatt had 15 points. Farchmin added 14 points and eight rebounds, but he dealt with foul trouble the majority of the game.
The euphoric Rantoul student body rushed the court at the final buzzer, and while cooling off below in their locker room, the Eagles still were buzzing about what had just transpired. Mahomet-Seymour — which led 19-7 at the end of the first quarter but only 30-29 at halftime — stood on the baseline closest to its locker room with displeased looks on its faces while watching the celebration.
"Since I've been here they've never rushed the court, but I don't think we've ever won a big game like that," Britt said. "Just being a part of that feels great."