WINDSOR, Conn. -- Michael Culpo didn't have one of his better games for the St. Andrew's School, but he delivered when it mattered most for the Saints.
Culpo hit a short pull-up jumper in the lane with two seconds to play, lifting St. Andrew's to a 74-73 victory over Proctor Academy on Sunday afternoon at the NEPSAC Class B Championship.
"His natural instinct took over," said a jubilant Mike Hart, St. Andrew's head coach, following the game. "He was a little off today, but he makes big plays."
"I am just happy I have him for another two years," the coach added.
Proctor Academy looked to be in good shape when 6-3 UConn bound senior guard Jerome Dyson nailed a pair of free throws to put the Hornets up 71-68 with 1:04 remaining.
The Saints hoped leading scorer and tournament MVP Rakim Sanders would rescue them from defeat. With 31.5 seconds, Sanders was fouled on a drive to the hole, and he connected on a pair of free throws to slice the deficit to 71-70.
That's when junior guard Andrew Hanson stepped to the forefront for St. Andrew's. He picked Dyson clean in the backcourt and knocked down a short jumper off glass with 26 seconds to play to put the Saints up 72-71.
That lead was short-lived, as Dyson was fouled about 25 feet away from the basket with 15.8 seconds left. He calmly sank a pair to restore Proctor's lead at 73-72.
St. Andrew's advanced the ball past the halfcourt stripe and called time out with 9.3 seconds left. Culpo inbounded the ball to Hanson, and the two seemed to get their wires crossed.
Moments later, Hanson fumbled the ball but recovered it, delivering a pass to a streaking Culpo. Culpo drove toward the basket and pulled up, releasing a high arching shot that somehow avoided the long arms of Proctor's 7-1 junior center Phil Wait.
By the time the Hornets inbounded the ball, the final buzzer sounded, and the Saints players mobbed Culpo and erupted in celebration.
"I thought [Hanson] lost the ball," said a dejected Dyson. "I didn't know that [Culpo] was behind me, and he got in the lane and threw up that floater."
Ironically, Proctor had swept St. Andrew's during the regular season, and the Hornets looked to be on their way to a third victory over the Saints for much of the first half.
Trailing 12-7 early, Dyson scored eight straight points as the Hornets capped a 23-6 blitz and grabbed a 30-18 lead with 5:04 to play in the first half. Moments later, Dyson canned a three-pointer and the lead swelled to 33-20.
Clearly on the ropes, St. Andrew's clawed back into the game via the long ball, getting a couple of three-point baskets (one from Sanders, another from 5-9 junior sharpshooter Joe Accaoui) to draw within 39-34 at the half.
Sanders scored the first five points of the second half to deadlock the game at 39, and that set the stage for a thrilling second half that featured a volley of lead changes.
"This is the biggest win of my career, after beating Winchendon," Hart said.
UCONN recruit Dyson had a big game. He scored 27 points in the loss.
-- Mike Sullivan contributed to this report