Little Ramya was nestled in the arms of her grandmother, Marquita, Wednesday night as Jacksonville State beat Southeast Missouri 67-65 on Senior Night to secure the most wins in coach James Green’s tenure and most for the program since 2005-06.
Her dad, Gamecocks senior Ronnie Boggs, played as big a part in the win as anyone. He and fellow senior Tarvin Gaines both went for a double-double as the Gamecocks (16-10, 8-7 OVC) completed a six-game sweep of the Ohio Valley Conference West Division. They are the only team in the league to sweep the other side of their conference.
“It was the last game I played at home in college and we got a win, and she was a lot of motivation for it,” said Boggs, who introduced his first-born to the Gamecock Nation during pregame ceremonies recognizing the team’s four seniors. “I’ll tell her I had a great college career here at Jacksonville State, we’re fixing to have one of the best finishes in school history and she was able to see it toward the end of it.”
Boggs did his daughter proud. He once again filled the box score, posting 14 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and four steals in 37 minutes. Gaines had a game-high 23 points and 10 rebounds. The Gamecocks’ other two seniors, Mason Leggett and Rinaldo Mafra, combined for nine points. All four seniors started for the first time this season.
The Gamecocks won it, snapping a three-game losing streak in the process, when junior Brian Williams scored a goaltended layup with 9.2 seconds left and then rushed down to disrupt Nick Niemczyk’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.
With the score tied at 65, Williams was working the clock to single digits from the top of the key when suddenly the left side of the floor opened. He drove the lane and his shot was interfered with by Nino Johnson. The basket counted and JSU had the lead.
“The plan was to milk the clock as far as possible and then get something going to the hole,” Williams said. “I knew it was goaltending; I’d have been mad if they didn’t call it.”
The Redhawks (14-14, 6-8) still had time to win it or tie. Lucas Nutt drove along the baseline against Leggett, then kicked out to Niemcyzk, but Williams was wise to the plan and followed the play.
“As soon as (Nutt) passed it I just jumped as high as I could to try to irritate him or deflect the ball, do something, because I knew he was going to shoot it,” Williams said.
The game also marked the surprise return of Darion Rackley. The sophomore guard had missed the previous nine games with a fractured thumb he sustained in practice between the SIU-Edwardsville and Eastern Illinois games. He was only cleared to play about two hours before tipoff, and after a rusty start, hit three big baskets in the final 9:17 to help the Gamecocks get and secure the lead.
His first 3-pointer since Jan. 10 got them within two, 53-51. His next one, after the Gamecocks missed five previous chances to tie or lead, gave them the lead for good with 6:21 to go. And his steal and layup with 4:44 left put them ahead by five, 60-55.
“It kind of surprised me,” said Rackley, the team’s leading scorer at the time of his injury. “They were saying there was a possibility for me to play Saturday, but I didn’t think I was going to play this game.
“I really wanted to play this game. It was the last home game with my seniors on the court; I had to play, so I begged the trainers and coaches to let me play.”
Rackley finished with 11 points. Williams had 10. They combined for the Gamecocks’ last 19 points.
“You’re talking about a guy who hadn’t done a whole lot since Jan. 10, and to be able to step out there and be right in the heat of it and make plays like he did I thought was outstanding on his part,” Green said of Rackley. “It was a good win for us. We needed it.”
SEMO placed four scorers in double figures, led by Marland Smith’s 16.
Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.