Boys basketball: Richie Armour’s bucket lifts Serena past Harvest Christian in 1A sectional semi

Huskers’ senior converts lob with 16 seconds remaining in win over Lions

Harvest Christian Academy’s JJ Gonnam (left) tries to get around Serena’s Carson Baker during the Class 1A Harvest Christian Academy Sectional semifinal game on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Elgin.

ELGIN – Serena senior Richie Armour had missed his previous four shots, all from right at the rim.

So when the Huskers needed the big basket in Wednesday’s Class 1A Harvest Christian Sectional semifinal, who did they call on?

Armour converted a lob pass from under the basket with 16 seconds remaining to give Serena the lead, and the sectional host Lions’ 3-pointer at the buzzer rimmed off to end a wild 72-70 victory for the Huskers.

“I had just missed a couple of easy ones, but I wasn’t missing that one,” Armour said. “Coach [Dain] Twait had faith in me, Beau [Raikes] set a perfect screen, and Tanner [Faivre] made a perfect pass. As I jumped up to grab the pass, I knew it was going in.”

Serena (31-3) will play Aurora Christian at 7 p.m. Friday in the sectional championship game. The Huskers, who reached the sectional finals last season, will be in search of the program’s first sectional title.

“Richie struggled finishing at the rim tonight, no doubt about it, but not that one,” Twait said with a smile. “We have a number of out-of-bounds plays under our own basket, but that one was one we hadn’t run yet, plus I felt like we had the height advantage at that moment. It was just a gut feeling, a gut feeling that he was going to come through, and he did.”

Faivre paced a balanced Serena attack with 18 points and four assists, with Armour and Hunter Staton (five rebounds) adding 14 points each. Raikes (five steals) added 13 points, and Carson Baker scored 11.

Harvest Christian (20-12) was paced by a game-high 20 points and eight rebounds from Kaden Meeker, 19 from JJ Gonnam and 12 from Elijah Bell.

Serena trailed by a point with 22 seconds left, but Harvest Christian called a timeout when it had none left and was assessed a technical foul. Raikes swished the second attempt to tie the game.

The Huskers then forced one of 16 Lions turnovers in the game to set up Armour’s big hoop.

The Lions, thanks in part to 60% shooting and 9 of 13 from beyond the arc in the first half, had a 31-17 lead early in the second. But Serena closed out the half on a 21-8 run, including 14 points and four 3s from Faivre, and trailed just 40-38.

“I thought both teams shot well and with confidence. Both teams just really lit it up,” Harvest Christian coach Lafeyette Bell said. “Serena plays hard, really hard. They just keep coming after you no matter the situation. I watched like 14 of their games on video, and that’s the biggest thing I took away from our scouting. That said, I really thought we matched them in that department the entire game but just came up a little bit short at the end there.”

The seesaw second half saw the Lions lead 59-57 after three quarters while the contest was tied four times in the final four minutes.

“We didn’t exactly execute as well as we should have in the final few minutes,” Twait said. “We had the lead a couple times and then just made a bad pass or turned it over.

“They shot the ball about as well as a team can shoot it, but in games like this it is sometimes about just hanging around and making plays when you have to.

“That’s what we did here tonight.”

Serena’s Hunter Staton high-fives fans following their Class 1A Harvest Christian Academy Sectional semifinal game win over Harvest Christian Academy on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Elgin.