CARBONDALE -- Justin Saddoris cut sharply down the lane and took a pass from Cole Schafer, drew enough contact to hear a whistle and then flipped the ball over his shoulder.
Circus shots are always fun but this timing was especially good. The ball went in the basket and put Marion ahead of Carbondale in the final seconds of overtime Friday night.
"Pure luck, that's all," Saddoris said. "I just threw it up. I knew where the basket was and I laid it up soft and it went in."
The two points from the made basket meant Saddoris didn't have to make two free throws to put his team ahead. Instead the flip took care of that and the Wildcats had a one-point lead with 3.4 seconds left.
Saddoris did have a free throw to shoot, however, and he missed it. But there was Schafer, grabbing the rebound and absorbing a crowd for a jump ball. Marion owned the arrow. Just 1.9 left on the clock.
Marion senior Terrell Henderson somehow ended up wide open in the lane and threw down a two-handed slam to seal a stunning 56-53 victory over the Terriers on the road Friday night.
Marion is now 18-10 overall and 4-5 in South Seven Conference games.
"It was a nice win for the program," said Marion first-year coach Gus Gillespie. "We've been beat at the buzzer a lot this year and had some heartbreaking losses. We didn't need another one. We were able to get this one on the right end for us and hopefully it will help us down the stretch here."
The ending was great for the Wildcats, but not the beginning.
Carbondale scored the game's first 10 points and led 17-3 after a dunk by Zanidrelle Johnson and a layup from Darius Beane. A three-point play by Beane gave him 11 points in the period, which ended at 20-9 only when Saddoris hit a buzzer-beater.
That basket started an 18-2 run by the Wildcats.
Saddoris scored five straight and the Wildcats were suddenly within 20-16 with 5:59 left in the half. And when Jaden Lacy hit a 3-pointer three minutes later, the Wildcats had a 25-22 lead.
Carbondale went into the break with a 28-25 advantage after 3-pointers from Clayton Greer and Beane, but Marion had climbed the proverbial mountain.
"It was the same thing they did to us at Marion," Gillespie said. "But we were able to make enough plays, hang around, then have a very good second quarter."
Beane, a senior headed to Southern Illinois University, had all nine of Carbondale's points in a low-scoring third quarter.
Marion couldn't catch the Terriers until Lacy hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 44 with two minutes left. Carbondale's James Baltz scored and Henderson answered, then Johnson missed a dunk try and Saddoris was called for a charging foul.
After a halfcourt heave by Carbondale's Jakeba Burleigh missed, the game went to overtime tied at 46.
Beane hit two free throws to open the extra session, then Schafer bounced in a 3-pointer to put Marion ahead for just the second time. The lead would change places four more times in the overtime before Saddoris flipped in his circus shot.
"Coach trusts me with the ball in my hands and I just tried to make a play for my team," Saddoris said. "Luckily, it went in."
Gillespie said it wasn't exactly how he illustrated it on the sideline, but it worked out just fine.
"Justin is a great player," Gillespie said. "He likes the ball in his hands late and I like it in his hands. That was a big-time play. We drew up a different play and it was busted and he made a good cut and Schafer hit him with a nice pass."
Saddoris finished with 15 points and Lacy had 13. Jackson Connor also had 13, with seven coming in the fourth quarter. Henderson had eight and Schafer added five.
Boston Ziegler chipped in two points off the bench and senior David Fletcher didn't score but started and provided a steady presence.
Beane led all scorers with 29 points. Greer was next for the Terriers with eight and Johnson had seven.
Carbondale (19-6) was trying to clinch a share of the South Seven title but is now 8-2 and behind Centralia, which beat Cahokia to become 8-1 and clinch a share of its own.
The Wildcats will play a big role in determining the league's final standings when they finish the regular season at Centralia this coming Friday.
Marion has also learned its postseason path. The Wildcats will play Benton in a semifinal game of the Carbondale 3A Regional on Tuesday, Feb. 27, after Carbondale meets either Carterville or Massac County.