MONMOUTH — Coming out of the timeout, Monmouth’s Brandon Goff just paced.
He lingered around the foul line waiting for his opportunity. He’d already hit one of the biggest free throws of his life to tie the game. Now, he had to sink another.
“I was just thinking I’ve got to get my nerves down,” the senior forward said. “I was thinking I needed to stay calm and I just tried to do what my coaches had told me — up, down, follow and it will go in. I knew we needed those bad. So I just took my time, slowed it down and thought about the basket and cancelled everything out.”
Goff sank the second free throw. The Mustangs followed with one last defensive stand to lift them to a stunning 46-45 win over Madison in a Western C preliminary.
Goff scored Monmouth’s final six points as the Mustangs rallied from a five-point deficit and scored six in the last 30 seconds.
It is the second straight year Monmouth has won a prelim and advanced to the quarterfinals. The sixth-ranked Mustangs (12-7) will play third-seeded Waynflete (15-2) Monday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center.
“In the first team meeting, our goal was to get to the Civic Center,” Goff said.
Goff was fouled with eight seconds left after Monmouth had gotten the ball back after a missed shot. The Mustangs were down one. When Madison’s Chase Malloy got the rebound, Monmouth’s Marques Houston tied up the ball and possession went back to Monmouth. The Mustangs set up a shot from the corner. When that missed, Goff was fouled in the scramble for the loose ball.
He sank the first free throw. Then Monmouth coach Lucas Turner called time out.
“Usually when you have a great free throw shooter, you don’t call a timeout in the middle of a guy’s free throw set,” said Turner, whose team had missed six of seven free throws in the fourth before Goff’s final two. “But I wanted them to plan on the miss.”
Turner, who may have broken his hand when he hit the wall during the victory celebration, barely looked at Goff during the time out.
“I said, ‘You’re going to make it,'” Turner said. “Then I talked to the other four and I said ‘If he doesn’t make it, this is what we’re doing.'”
After the two free throws, Madison didn’t get a chance for a shot until the final seconds. Ty Cowan put up a heave toward the basket but it didn’t go. The Bulldogs (7-12) went the last two-plus minutes without scoring as the Mustangs rallied.
“That’s senior leadership and a veteran team,” said Turner, whose team beat Madison in the regular season 57-35. “We’ve been in that situation before and we’ve pulled some games out. I think that’s the difference between this year’s team and last year’s team.”
Goff finished with 12 to lead the Mustangs. Houston added nine. Joe Menice, Brett Wilson and Kasey Smith each had six. Madison got 14 from Derek LeBlanc and 11 from Jared Miller. Malloy added 10.
Madison started strong and Monmouth didn’t. The Mustangs stayed close and finally tied the game early in the third with a Goff basket in the first minute. Monmouth wouldn’t score another field goal until 18 seconds remained. The Mustangs shot 1-for-12 to start the fourth.
“We tied it 40-40 and then it was like there was a lid on it,” said Turner. “We thought we did a good job being patient, and I thought we got good looks out of it. They just weren’t falling for us.”
Neither were the free throws. Goff is a 47 percent free throw shooter, matching the team’s average, and had even missed from the line before his clutch finish.
“This year, I’ve been struggling with my free throws,” Goff said. “I’ve been working on them and Coach has put me in situations like that and it’s paid off.”
Madison opened the lead in the fourth with a 3 from Derek LeBlanc. He scored on a fast break basket that made it 45-40 with 2:25 left in the game.
“We just had to get back on defense and play like we had been,” Goff said. “Offensively, we had to go down and execute and take our time and not rush our shots.”
Madison hit six of its first seven shots of the game and opened an early eight-point lead. Monmouth closed the gap to 18-16 after one. The Bulldogs pushed the lead up to five in the second and rode a Jared Miller 3 to end the half up 32-28.. Madison was up by as many as six in the third. A Menice 3 late cut it to 40-38 entering the fourth.