PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With 3.9 seconds on the clock and the game tied, Taconic High School's Mike Taylor had a chance to become an unlikely hero.
And when he jacked up a 3-point try from the left wing, the hopes of Taconic boys basketball faithful soared along with the ball. His shot missed, and their hearts were broken.
But only for a moment. Trayvon Sims was there to pick up the pieces ... and the loose ball.
Sims charged into the lane, grabbed the rebound and beat the buzzer to give Taconic a 63-61 win over St. Joseph on Friday night.
"He shot, and everybody was just standing there, even them," Sims said. "When I saw the shot go up, I just ran for the rebound. And then I just took the ball and went up. It was crazy. Just the blink of an eye."
Taconic earned a split in the season series with St. Joe and a chance to wrap up a share of the city title when it travels to Pittsfield on Feb. 15.
Sims battled through an ankle injury he aggravated in Tuesday's loss to Mount Greylock to score 15 points and grab four rebounds — including the most important carom of the night.
"St. Joe defended the inbounds well — the play we had drawn up ... and it wasn't for Mike to take a 3," a drained Taconic coach Bill Heaphy said with a laugh. "Three-point-9 is a lot of time left. He took that shot, and it kind of just came off, and there was a scramble.
"[In the timeout], what we did say, though, was let's pursue the ball after the shot. We're all in the bonus. And it just happened to drop right where he was, and he laid it in."
The win snapped a brief two-game losing streak for Taconic (8-6) and moved the Braves closer to a berth in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 tournament.
"It's big for us," Heaphy said. "Obviously our sights are set on the tournament, qualifying for the tournament. This week for us was big — Greylock, Amherst, who's already in the tournament with the top Division 1 teams down in Springfield, losing to them by two on Wednesday and then having St. Joe with all the success they've had recently.
"I think the week we've had definitely gives us some confidence going into what's ahead of us. It's a big confidence builder for us."
The Crusaders (8-6) are the defending Western Mass champions in Division 3 and a state finalist from a year ago but have dropped four of their last six, a stretch that started when a flu bug swept through the Catholic school midway through January.
St. Joe had all of its regulars back on Friday night, but Taconic went blow-for-blow with the defending city champs all night long.
The Crusaders' biggest lead was in the first two minutes of the game. But Taconic came back to take its first lead of the night with 31 seconds left in the first quarter when Shaquille Ardrey (11 points) stole the ball and registered a conventional three-point play in transition to put his team up, 13-10.
The first half featured five ties and three lead changes. Taconic led by as many as four, 31-27, before Jon Bianchi scored in transition to make it a two-point game at half-time.
The Braves' first-half success was keyed largely on the rebounding of Drew Scace and Taylor, who combined for 15 first-half rebounds to help their team to a 22-13 advantage in that department going into the locker room.
But there was trouble on the horizon. Scace went to the locker room with three fouls. Taylor drew his third early in the third quarter and his fourth midway through the fourth period.
"What we've been really emphasizing is the aggressiveness inside, and it's really come on the last two or three weeks with those guys in particular," Heaphy said. "When they got into some foul trouble, it was a concern because I thought they were doing pretty well. We were doing a good job getting it inside offensively, and Mike was making some nice plays down there, with Drew.
"Once I had to kind of shuffle them in and out, it did kind of change a little bit the flow of the game for us. ... Then we three [minutes] to go, I looked at my coaches and said, 'We've got to go back to Mike. He's got to play.' We left our starters in there and prayed for the best at that point."
Tyler Murphy hit a couple of 3s to help extend Taconic's lead to 39-32, but after Taylor picked up his third, the Crusaders went on a 10-0 run that featured six points by Taverick "Tank" Roberson (game-high 21) and four by Michael Carpenter (17 points, nine rebounds).
It took Taconic just three minutes to regain the lead with a 10-5 run of its own. Taylor (16 points, eight rebounds), scored in the post and put back an offensive rebound during that spurt.
And although he and Scace were not as effective on the glass in the second half, Scace had six second-half rebounds to finish with a game-high 15, and both forwards made big plays in the game's final minutes.
St. Joe scored its final points when Carpenter drove the right wing to make it 61-57 with 2:00 left to play.
Taylor drew contact in the post two possessions later and hit both ends of a two-shot foul to make it a one-possession game with 1:43 on the clock.
St. Joe turned over the ball, and Taylor converted a feed from Sims to tie it with :59 on the clock.
After another turnover by the Crusaders, Taconic's Murphy tried a 3-pointer with about 35 seconds left. Scace battled for the rebound, which went out of bounds of a St. Joe player, giving Taconic possession with 30.7 on the game clock and a new 30-second shot clock.
After two Taconic timeouts, the Braves got the ball inbound and ran an isolation play for Ardrey on the right side. He drove to the basket, but his shot rimmed out. Taylor battled St. Joe's Lavante Wiggins for the rebound, and it was ruled a jump ball -- possession to Taconic — with 3.9 on the clock, setting the stage of Sims' last-second heroics.
St. Joe travels to Mount Everett on Tuesday night. Taconic will be in North Adams that night to take on Drury.