Kody Eckert was known as a cold-blooded shooter when he made his varsity debut as a sophomore two years ago. Now a senior, that hasn't changed.
The McQueen guard shook off a cold-shooting night from long range to nail a game-tying 3-pointer, Austin Rukthavornsakul sank a go-ahead free throw with 18 seconds left and the Lancers survived Bishop Manogue's two chances at a game-winner to take a 57-56 season-opening win Tuesday night at Manogue.
Eckert had missed almost a dozen 3s, many wide open, through the first 31 minutes but didn't hesitate to pull up from well beyond the line with his team trailing by three.
"You just have to hit it when it matters. So that's what I did," he said. "I love being in that position. It's fun."
After a defensive stop, Rukthavornsakul gave the Lancers (1-0, 1-0 High Desert) the lead when he sank the second of two free throws.
"He'd missed a couple shots but when he needed to go down and hit a free throw he did and I'm proud of him," McQueen coach John Franklin said of the junior Rukthavornsakul. "He could have got his head down but he didn't and he knocked down that free throw."
It was Rukthavornsakul's third point of the night. Eckert led the way with 25, and Elijah Claudio added eight.
"I'll take it. One out of two, 50 percent, in that situation, I don't care," Eckert said. "I had confidence in him. I thought he'd hit one. I'm glad he hit the second one. I was getting scared."
McQueen was in for two more scary moments when a runner from Manogue's James Sandoval rolled off the rim with 6 seconds left and the put back attempt from Zack Wurm somehow stayed out.
"The spacing on the court was perfect and we had one of our best players going to the hoop," said Manogue coach Brent McConaghy, who lost his debut with the Miners (0-1, 0-1 Sierra). "The shot just missed a little to the right. Zack showed he's a good rebounder and a tough kid. He just rushed the shot a little and it kicked out. We got the shots we wanted. They just didn't go down."
Remy Dillard led the Miners with 20 points, and Wurm added 11 as Manogue rallied from a nine-point second-quarter deficit and out of a five-point hole to start the fourth.
But the Lancers hung on.
"This is a confidence-builder," Franklin said. "No matter how you get it, as ugly it was, it's still a win. When we had to have a stop, after they'd gone on a run and the crowd was in it, we got that stop. It's always good to get that win when you're not where you want to be and then build on it."