WORCESTER, Mass. -- Even as he heard his coach from the sidelines clamoring for him to hold the ball, not shoot, St. John's Kenny Harrington couldn't resist instinct.
"I clearly had an off night shooting, but shooters shoot," the senior guard said with self-awareness. "So I kept looking for my shot. Davon [Jones] found me down in the corner, and I took advantage."
The result was eight seconds of chaos that won't soon be forgotten. The Pioneers held on for a 52-51 win over Algonquin in the nightcap of the Division 1 Central semifinals, at the hallowed Harrington Auditorium on the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, to advance to next Sunday's district finals at the same venue. But it was how it got to that final score that will be talked about for quite some time.
Harrington's initial attempt in the possession, a layup through traffic, hit iron and was tapped out to the top of the key, where the sophomore Jones cradled it away from an Algonquin defender. From there, Jones took two dribbles and kicked out to the left corner, where Harrington had drifted for the dramatic shot with eight seconds to go. That gave the Pioneers a 52-48 lead.
The ensuing inbounds pass was immediately heaved upcourt to Algonquin's Brandon Lukoff, who dribbled to the top of the key and dished to senior Brad Canova at the left wing. Canova sank the open three, and fell to the floor as he got contact from a St. John's player on the way down. Not enough contact was induced to call a foul, the officials determined -- to the chagrin of Tomahawk players, coach Brian Doherty, and just about everyone else in the building there to support Algonquin.
Fans stayed in their seats to protest loudly for several minutes, and Doherty had some choice words for the officials as police escorted the referees off the court.
"It's not worth commenting on officials," Doherty said. "It is what it is. You can't change it. They know what they did, I can't change it, so hey, move on. I don't comment on officials."
Asked in a follow-up question whether he felt there was enough contact to initiate a foul call, Doherty replied tersely, "I've got video I'm going to show them. That's all I'm going to say."
All that, of course, shouldn't overlook what was an otherwise climactic moment of redemption for Harrington, who struggled mightily tonight. Prior to his last-second shot, Harrington was 1-for-13 from the field.
Confirming Harrington's tale that he was told not to shoot, St. John's coach Bob Foley had a few laughs as he recounted the moment.
"I don't want to say that, but you're right," he said. "Well, it was 17 seconds to go, and we're ahead one point with a new shot clock. So yeah, I kinda said to take it out, and all of a sudden, bang."
With a dash of sarcasm, Foley quipped, "Yeah, good shot Kenny," adding with a chuckle, "Sometimes it's good when kids don't listen to you."
The Pioneers took command early in this one, taking a 36-21 halftime lead and going up as much as 20 (41-21) early in the third quarter. But the Tomahawks turned in quite the rally, outscoring the Pioneers 30-11 over the final 14 minutes of play.
Six-foot-8 sophomore A.J. Brodeur (17 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks) dominated on the defensive end early, registering four blocks in the first quarter and racking up seven rebounds by halftime, but he was only 4-for-11 from the field in the first half. Brodeur encountered similar struggles in the second half (2-for-7), but facilitated a terrific high-low game in the half-court, flashing in the post to generate open perimeter looks for Canova (14 points) and sophomore Michael Stamas (11).
"We knew what they were going to do in the second half was lay back, and we didn't shoot well at all in the first half," Doherty said. "I knew if we picked up our shooting a little bit, they're going to double A.J. harder, then he's just got to kick it. We talked alot about just attacking."
Jones led the way with 11 points for the Pioneers. Junior Charlie Murray, freshman Adham Floyd and junior T.J. Kelley all added 10 points apiece in the winning effort.