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Dejahown Freeman, of Bloom, drives through an opening in the Rich East defense at Rich East High School, Friday, February 1st, 2013 in Park Forest. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
The short of Bloom’s 68-66 double-overtime victory Friday over host Rich East was an ailing Johnny Griffin rebounding his own missed shot and converting a putback in the extra session to put the Blazing Trojans in front for good.
The long of it? That belonged to Jared Johnson.
The 6-foot-4 junior forward punched his ticket to be the big man on campus Monday when he knocked down a 30-footer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, then swished a 28-footer in the closing seconds of the extra session to tie it again.
The two threes were his only field goals of the night. Go figure.
“I’m a shooter, really. That’s basically what I do,” Johnson said. “I was confident to hit it. I depended on my teammates to get me the ball, and I knocked the shot down.”
Griffin led the Blazing Trojans (18-3, 7-1) with 15 points and nine rebounds. James Coleman added 13 points, and Dejahown Freeman and Johnson 11 points each as Bloom took over sole possession of first place in the Southland Athletic Conference.
Nick Horne tallied 17 points, Ronald Lawton 15 points and 10 rebounds and Brandon Cole 10 points for Rich East (12-6, 5-2).
“This one meant a lot,” Griffin said. “When it came down to the last minutes of the quarters, we executed better.”
Johnson did do more than hit the most important three-pointers of the night. He was also 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final minute of the second overtime.
“He was the scorer on the sophomore team last season,” Bloom coach Jasper Williams said of Johnson, who is averaging six points for the Blazing Trojans. “We pretty much have a senior team, so we have to pick and choose the playing time.”
The victory gave Bloom a sweep of the two-game series. On Dec. 14 the Blazing Trojans had a much easier time of it, winning 46-37.
“We didn’t play with the intensity we should have this time,” Williams said. “But we made some tough shots, made some free throws when it counted.
“This is the second game in a row we didn’t shoot 50 percent from the free throw line, but they showed a lot of heart and we won the ballgame, that’s the bottom line.”
Had not Johnson hit two improbable shots, a hero for Rich East would have Horne, who hit two free throws with 18.7 seconds left in regulation to force Bloom into a desperation shot situation. He also hit three free throws in the first overtime, including one with 38.3 seconds left to put the Rockets up 59-56.
Most other times it would be enough. Not this time.
“And the thing was, it was somewhat challenged,” Rich East coach George Leonard said of Johnson’s shot at the regulation buzzer. “There was a guy there close enough. But the last thing you want to do is foul him.
“For whatever reason… we (the coaches) were just somewhat joking that we lost five games at the buzzer. At least we were up three this time and it went to overtime. But the kid made two great shots.”