WATERLOO — As the final shot went up, Waterloo West boys’ basketball head coach Cliff Berinobis couldn’t watch.
Then, Berinobis heard a roar from the home crowd and he looked up to a celebration.
CaRondis Harris-Anderson’s two free throws with five seconds left lifted the Wahawks (11-6) to a 65-64 upset of fourth-ranked Cedar Falls (12-4) Friday in Mississippi Valley Conference action at Siddens Gymnasium.
However, the victory wasn’t really secured until Tiger star guard A.J. Green, who had managed to elude two West defenders and get a clean, open look from 25 feet, saw his shot hit the back of the rim and carom out at the buzzer.
“I put my head down, honestly, because you are expecting him to make it,” Berinobis said. “He makes that 50 percent of the time ... 70 percent of the time. He’s such a great player, and we have so much respect for him. He just doesn’t miss in those situations very often.”
The win snapped a two-game West losing streak, while Cedar Falls saw a nine-game win streak come to an end.
A crazy sequence of events happened in the closing minute.
With a chance to extend a small West lead, Harris-Anderson missed a pair of free throws with 48 seconds left, leaving the Wahawks with a 63-60 lead.
Ben Gerdes scored with 37 seconds to pull Cedar Falls within one and then with West forcing the issue while trying to break a Tiger trap defense, the ball was knocked loose and Logan Wolf converted an easy lay-up to give Cedar Falls its first lead of the game since the 3:19 mark of the third quarter with 10 seconds left.
Harris-Anderson was then fouled bringing the ball upcourt to set up the final thrilling plays.
“I had to let that go,” Harris-Anderson said of missing the two earlier free throws. “I knew great players make great shots, and that is what I was thinking.”
Harris Anderson’s first free throw hit the front of the rim, the back of the rim and the backboard before going in to tie it. He swished the second.
Then it was all in Green’s hands, much to Berinobis’ dismay.
“When we came to the huddle (during a timeout prior to Harris-Anderson’s free throws), I said, ‘When he makes these, A.J. does not catch the ball,’” recalled Berinobis. “That was the plan, and part B didn’t work.”
It was a thrilling, intense, wire-to-wire game between two metro rivals who had met back on Dec. 5 in Cedar Falls where the Tigers rolled the Wahawks, 78-50.
“That is the game that made us turn the corner,” Berinobis said. “They made us who we are today with that first game with them. Hats off to them. We admire them because they are where we want to be and they should look at it that way.”
Running a slow and patient offense West led 23-20 at halftime. But Cedar Falls pushed the pace in the second half and surged into its first lead since the 5:02 mark of the first quarter with a Wolf 3-pointer with 4:47 left in the third, 34-33.
Jackson Frericks, who had 12 points, hit his second 3-pointer of the third quarter to extend the Tigers’ lead to 37-33 and it looked liked Cedar Falls had West on the ropes.
“We just kept our composure and kept on playing ball,” Harris-Anderson said. “I’ve had a lot of good wins over the years, but this is definitely the best. Has to be one of the best.”
Harris-Anderson converted a conventional three-point play to start a 10-0 run by West. The Wahawks got a pair of huge Isaiah Johnson 3-pointers to open the fourth quarter and led by as much as eight, 55-47, with 3:05 remaining.
Then Green picked up the pace, Wolf had a steal and a lay-up and Cedar Falls quickly erased that deficit leading into the closing minute.
Green led the Tigers with 17 points, while Wolf added 16.
Harris-Anderson led four West players in double figures with 20, including 15 in the second half. Kalen Burt had 14, Jaden Keller chipped in 13 and Nicholas Pepin had 10. The Wahawks shot 59.5 percent from the field in the game, 22 of 37.
“Mental toughness showed up tonight,” Berinobis said.
West 65, Cedar Falls 64
CEDAR FALLS (12-4) — A.J. Green 5-12 5-6 17, Logan Wolf 6-9 2-4 16, Ben Gerdes 4-10 0-2 9, Jackson Frericks 5-11 0-0 12, Jack Campbell 4-7 0-1 8, Mason Abbas 0-1 0-0 0, Sam Gary 0-1 0-0 0, Reese Gardner 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 25-52 7-13 64.
WATERLOO WEST (11-6) — Nicholas Pepin 3-7 3-3 10, Isaiah Johnson 3-5 0-0 8, Kalen Burt 4-6 5-5 14, CaRondis Harris-Anderson 7-12 5-7 20, Jaden Keller 5-7 1-3 13, Antonio Alexander Jr. 0-0 0-0 0, Jaquon ONeal 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-37 14-18 65.
Cedar Falls 11 9 21 23 — 64
Wat. West 13 10 22 20 — 65
3-point goals — Cedar Falls 7 (Green 2, Wolf 2, Frericks 2, Gerdes). West 6 (Pepin, Johnson 2, Burt, Harris-Anderson, Keller). Total fouls — Cedar Falls 14, West 16. Fouled out — none.
C.F. SOPHS 65, WEST SOPHS 61
CEDAR FALLS — Joshua Ollendieck 30, Ben Sernett 13, Cael Loecher 6, Jaxon Heth 5, Cade McCann 3, Caiden Barnett 2, Michael White 6.
WEST — Michael Robinson Jr. 12, Mondre Lagow 5, Mitch Fordyce 13, Vasilije Novakovic 7, Caleb Haeg 11, Amar Kujuhovic 8, Nate Mabry 5.