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NEW CASTLE – After almost going unnoticed through much of the game, North Oldham High School junior center Devon Rowan came through with three key plays in the final 30 seconds to help the Mustangs defeat Walton-Verona 55-54 in the opening round of the Eighth Region tourney Thursday.
With Walton-Verona coming back from a 31-19 half time deficit the Mustangs needed every bit of Rowan's 6-foot-7 frame to secure the win.
Walton-Verona cut the NOHS lead to 51-50 on a three-pointer off the right win from Zach McNeil, then took the lead at 52-51 with 42 seconds left in the game when Matt Hargett hit a six-foot pullup jumper in the paint.
Rowan answered for NOHS at the other end by snaring a missed shot and following it in to give the Mustangs a 53-52 lead with 28 seconds left.
At the other end, guard David Levitch partially blocked a shot on a drive by Hargett with Rowan securing the loose ball.
Rowan put NOHS up 55-52 with two free throws with 14.9 seconds left.
Hargett pulled the Bearcats to within one at 55-54 with 9.2 seconds left with two free throws of his own and Walton-Verona got the ball back when Levitch was trapped on the baseline and McNeil came away with a the ball immediately calling a timeout.
On the ensuing play, McNeil drove the baseline and had his shot blocked by Rowan at the buzzer to secure the win for NOHS.
The win advances the Mustangs into the regional semis at 8 p.m. Monday against Spencer County. The other semifinal game will tipoff at 6:30 p.m. with Oldham County taking on Henry County.
The finals are set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Henry County.