ANDOVER — Since Marshall Miller's emergence at Andover Central, he has been viewed as nearly infallible, rarely being tested this season.
Friday night's Class 5A sub-state final between the cross-town rivals from Andover exposed a new side of Miller, previously unseen — his resiliency.
He botched an open layup. He missed a potential game-tying free throw. Then, with the game tied and three-tenths of a second remaining, Miller left the first of two free throws short.
"I just couldn't miss again," Miller said. "Everything was on the line. It was my last chance to play high school basketball. My team was counting on me, so I had to make it."
Right after making the second to secure a 47-46 win, Miller jubilantly gave a fist pump. After all, he doesn't get to enjoy the feeling of overcoming adversity too often.
The win advanced Central (20-2) to the Class 5A tournament.
"He's human sometimes," Central's Randall Vautravers said. "Most of the time he makes every shot. He missed some, but he got it when it counted."
The ending seemed almost cruel to the efforts of Andover. The Trojans played such inspired ball, at one point Central coach Jesse Herrmann was forced to call a time-out.
After two regular-season losses to the Jaguars totaling 35 points, Andover controlled the game, leading all but 37 seconds after taking a 19-17 lead in the second quarter.
"That's what makes it tough to swallow," Andover coach Jason Stucky said. "I felt like we out-competed them. But you need to catch a couple of breaks to win in the playoffs and we didn't get any."
But once Thomas Jobe (15 points) gave Andover a 44-42 lead with 3:52 left, the Trojans began to seize up. Though they ran off plenty of clock, the Trojans' offense suffered.
Central took advantage and tied it with 44 seconds left, then Vautravers gave the Jaguars a 46-44 lead with 25 seconds left on two free throws.
"I wasn't nervous at all," Vautravers said. "I knew I was going to make the last two, after I missed the one earlier. It's just being a senior and knocking them down."
Jobe appeared to will Andover to overtime with a jumper that went in with eight seconds, but Central pushed it ahead and Miller was fouled on a drive with less than a second remaining.
Though Miller ended the game, the atmosphere of the rivalry and magnitude of the game was not lost on the coaches.
"It was special for the guys to be able to play in this atmosphere," Stucky said. "Not a lot of high school kids get to experience that."
"I don't know how you could get a much better game," Hermann agreed.
Andover Central (20-2) 12 8 20 7 — 47 Andover (11-11) 7 16 14 9 — 46
ANDOVER CENTRAL: Anderson 8, Vautravers 5, Miller 16, Stiverson 8, Wilks 1, McWhorter 9. Totals 16 (6) 9-19 47.
ANDOVER: Driver 8, Jobe 15, Tyler 2, Malone 11, Wreath 4, Oberg 4, Croitoru 2. Totals 19 (5) 3-5 46.