By BEN JOHNSON
HULBERT — Corey Kerr exited Hulbert's locker room with his teammates and fans chanting, "M-V-P! M-V-P!" Meanwhile, the ear-to-ear grin was plastered on Kerr's face.
And who could blame him? After all, he had just buried a game-winning shot to lift Hulbert to a season-opening victory.
Kerr drained a mid-range jumper from the right baseline with 2.1 seconds left to propel the Riders to a 55-54 triumph over Okay at Rider Fieldhouse on Friday night.
"I wanted to start off a winner," Kerr said. "That's pretty much all that was going through my head at the time."
Before the last few seconds of the game, Kerr had attempted only two shots — both misses — and was staring at a scoreless effort off the bench. But on Hulbert's final possession of the game, Kerr received a pass from Jordan Gibson and calmly sank the shot for his only two points of the night.
Then he leaped in the air as the crowded gymnasium came unglued.
"Right there at the end of the game, we were going to get the ball to (Mason Fielden), but he had three defenders on him," said Hulbert coach Rick Ott, who was filling in for Darron McCord, who missed the game because of an illness. "Nobody was guarding Corey and Gibson fired a great pass to him down there in the corner, and there was 2.1 seconds left and not much he could do about it."
Without hesitation, Kerr sent Hulbert to a 1-0 start to the 2013-2014 campaign. Okay fell to 1-1 when a three-quarter-court shot attempt was off the mark by Okay's Caleb Riggs.
Fielden led all scorers in the game with 20 points. However, it took him 30 shot attempts to get to nine converted field goals.
But it was a block by Fielden that sparked a second-half rally by the Riders.
With Hulbert trailing 48-36 in the third quarter, Fielder swatted a shot attempt by Okay's Paul Taylor emphatically out of bounds. Hulbert followed with a 13-0 run that would get it within 48-47 early in the fourth quarter.
The Riders, though, never could take a late lead until Kerr's heroics.
Hulbert found itself in a back-and-forth game in the first half, when the Riders traded leads with Okay 14 times. There were also seven ties in the first 14 minutes of the game.
The Mustangs would eventually take advantage of being in the bonus since the 3:34 mark of the first quarter by closing the first half on a 10-1 run to claim a 38-29 halftime lead. Okay would then lead by as much as 48-34 in the third quarter.
Hampering Okay's efforts to win the game was its shooting in the second half. The Mustangs — who were 16 of 41 from the field in the game — were 6 of 21 from the floor and two-of-14 from the free-throw line in the second half.
Okay's leading scorer was Darius Riggs, who logged 18 points on four-of-15 shooting from the field and seven-of-13 from the free-throw line. Zac Coyle was the Mustangs' only other double-digit scorer with 14 points.
For Hulbert, Rico Wynn tallied 13 points and Trenton Vaughn added 10 points and nine rebounds.
"It was a great game," Ott said. "I don't think anyone is going to ask for their admission back."
Kerr said he was going to home to celebrate but with no particular plans in mind.
"I'm going to go celebrate it," he said. "I'm going to go home and do something, but I don't know what I'm going to do yet."
Hulbert 55, Okay 54
Okay 22 16 10 6 -- 54
Hul 20 9 12 14 -- 55
Okay (1-1): Darius Riggs 18, Zac Coyle 14, Noah Eastwood 6, C. Riggs 5, Pierce 4, Haley 3, Fielder 2, Mendenhall 2.
Hulbert (1-0): Mason Fielder 20, Rico Wynn 13, Trenton Vaughn 10, Taylor 4, Gibson 3, Medlin 2, Kerr 2, Brown 1.