MAGNOLIA — There’s a certain irony to Aaron Scott playing for such a small school.
Because, at 6-foot-4, 280 pounds, the St. Thomas More center is bigger than a lot of the guys he goes up against.
Scott used that considerable size to get position in the lane before driving and laying in the shot that gave No. 14 St. Thomas More a dramatic 43-41 overtime victory over No. 19 St. Mark’s in the first round of the DIAA boys’ basketball state tournament on Wednesday night.
The Ravens also got a game-clinching steal from Greg Bloodsworth just before the final buzzer before they happily celebrated the first tourney win in the program’s history.
The hard-earned victory sends St. Thomas More (16-5) to a second-round game at third-seeded Dover (17-3) on Friday at 7 p.m.
“I tell you what, I’m so proud of those guys in the locker room,” said Ravens coach Cheston Boyd. “We’re a small school so we’re all connected some way, somehow. I had alumni texting me. ... It’s huge for the school.”
With St. Thomas More leading 29-14 midway through the third quarter, it looked like the Ravens wouldn’t need any late-game heroics. But the Spartans (13-8) stormed back, going up 37-33 when Sean Gilardi drilled a three-pointer with 2:12 left in regulation.
This time, though, it was the Ravens who rallied.
Scott, who finished with a team-high 20 points, scored back-to-back baskets off offensive rebounds. His second of those putbacks tied the low-scoring contest at 37-37 with 57 seconds remaining in regulation.
Eventually, St. Thomas More missed a shot at the end of regulation as the game went to OT.
In overtime, the Ravens got two baskets from Elias Revelle to take a pair of two-point leads. But, both times, St. Mark’s came back to tie the game.
Finally, Scott layed in his game-winner with 19 seconds remaining.
“Aaron is a tough matchup,” said Boyd. “The kid has incredible footwork and he’s just very crafty. He catches almost everything you throw in to him. It’s been a work in progress. Early in the season he was getting a lot of charges.
“But the kid works extremely hard and he deserves everything he got tonight.”
“When they came back, we just told ourselves to stay calm,” said Scott, who is from Smyrna. “We had this situation before and we lost a couple times. But we learned from our failures. We got the job done today. We got down, stayed calm and we came back and won.”
After Scott’s basket, the Spartans still had a chance to tie or win the game. They sank four three-pointers in the game.
The Ravens played St. Mark’s aggressively after the Spartans inbounded the ball at midcourt with 10 seconds left. Anticipating a pass that St. Thomas More had seen on tape, Bloodsworth made the steal and drove downcourt as time expired.
“I thought they were going to shoot a three and make it,” Bloodsworth admitted. “That happened to us all season long. That was good defense by us, though.”
“My thinking on that was, be aggressive, because, even if we get a foul, they had to go shoot a one-and-one,” said Boyd. “So the pressure’s on them. We’re up two. .
“I said, ‘Listen, I don’t care if you get a foul, but we’ve got to be aggressive. We can’t go home because we sat back and just allowed them to do what they do best.’”
Chris Ludman led St. Mark’s comeback, netting 16 of his game-high 23 points in the second half and overtime.
Friday’s second-round game would be big for St. Thomas More no matter who it was playing. Another victory would send the Ravens to the Carpenter Center for the first time.
But the fact that it’s facing nearby Dover, with its proud basketball tradition, makes it an even bigger opportunity for St. Thomas More.
“It’s exciting,” said Boyd, a Dover grad. “It’s really exciting. It’s kind of like a dream come true. ... We’ll take our 170 strong against their 2,000-plus and we’ll see what we’re able to do. Dover has a solid team but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
“We’re going to try our best,” said Scott, “and see how it goes.”