Makaui Tees Up a Buzzer-Beater to Break the T-Birds
The Highland Rams Advance to the Second Round After Upsetting the Top-Seeded Timpview
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Elijah Shelton puts the ball in play after a score from the Timpview T-Birds, putting the Rams down two with just 90 seconds remaining in the first round of the 4A state playoffs. Liki Makaui doesn’t hesitate to get the ball up the court after receiving the ball from Shelton, going coast to coast for a clutch layup tying the game at 51-51 with just over a minute left.
After the final timeout of the game, the T-Birds came out with a plan to run the clock down, so that at least if they missed their final shot, there wouldn’t be enough time left for Highland to get a shot off. After 40 seconds of patiently waiting, the young Rams stuck to their defensive strategy and the ball was entered into the post, where recently-returned Bronson Olevao played straight up and forced a contested shot, which ended up in the hands of Shelton. After the rebound was secured, Shelton tossed it to Makaui who was at full speed just before half court with less than four seconds remaining.
A leaning three from 35 feet out, hit the net as if he had set his feet with all the time in the world. Final score: 54-51, Upset complete.
“That last shot was crazy; I still can’t believe I hit it.” Sophomore Makaui said still in shock. “It was overall not just a great play because of the shot, but because of everything that came before it. It was great on-ball defense from Bronson, a great rebound and pass from Elijah, and I just had to add the final topping on the cake, and I hit it.”
How Highland even got to that point is something to commemorate, cutting a double-digit deficit in the second half was nothing short of incredible, especially with the steps that were made to get there. Shelton, a captain in his junior year, showed his love for the spotlight yet again as he finished with a career night, even after sustaining a tough injury in the third quarter. An inadvertent elbow to his right eye forced him out of the game for a quick two minutes, which was when Shelton decided that he was ready to return to action. A swollen eye and half of his vision gone wasn’t going to stop Shelton from hitting a clutch jumper with two minutes left to keep the Rams in contention, which was just part of his 17 point, 10 rebound, 5 assist performance.
After a back and forth first quarter, Timpview pulled ahead in the second with multiple steals leading to a showcase of their unbelievable outside shooting. The Rams fell into the trap of playing fast with the T-Birds, which is why they trailed 34-27 at half.
“We just needed to slow our offense down and finish in the second half.” Shelton said. “Once we slowed down the pace, we were able to cut away at the lead they had.”
Not only did they find their rhythm offensively as they settled down in the second half, but the defensive remained stout. Switching from a man-on-man defensive strategy to a trap zone meant more work for the Rams, but the work payed off as Makaui and Olevao found multiple steal opportunities in the final quarter which added to the offensive productivity.
After upsetting the #1 seeded T-Birds in the first round leaves the Rams in a very good place entering the quarterfinals of the state playoff. Highland will look to carry their momentum from this game onto their next as the heart clearly outweighs the inexperience of this team, along with a team chemistry that seems to mold tighter every game.
“If we play as hard as we did tonight, we will be unstoppable.” Shelton said.
The rams will look to play their second round game against a team previously seen this season, the Hillcrest Huskies, this Thursday the 2nd, at 3pm at Weber State.