SULLIVAN TWP. — Even the Salvation Army would have blushed.
South Central’s boys basketball team gave Black River so many gifts Saturday it was hard to fathom.
Even so, the Pirates still had to take advantage, and Mat Stuart scored five points in overtime to give them a thrilling 61-59 non-conference win.
Black River (8-12) outscored the Trojans (14-5) 14-5 over the final 4:24 of regulation, then netted six of the first eight overtime points until South Central’s Derek Sweeting hit a meaningless shot at the buzzer.
“It’s a big win on senior night, and it feels good to come back and win in overtime,” Stuart said. “It’s a good story.”
It appeared the Pirates were in trouble when South Central’s Cody Fishbaugh (game-high 27 points) knocked the ball off Jon Sas’ leg out-of-bounds with 39 seconds remaining in overtime. The acrobatic hustle play gave the Trojans second life under their own basket with the score 57-all.
South Central inbounded deep. Stuart (11 points) poked the ball away from Fishbaugh at half-court, and Fishbaugh was called for a loose-ball foul.
Both teams were in the double bonus, so Stuart calmly stepped to the line and sank both free throws.
South Central’s Von Buhrman missed a 17-footer from the top of the key with 10 seconds remaining, leading to split free throws from Black River’s Brian Clements.
Sas, who sent the game to overtime with a hustle play, put forth another outstanding effort as he snared Clements’ brick, giving way to Stuart to secure the upset with a freebie.
“During warm-ups I always try to shoot free throws, and I was missing them,” Stuart said. “When I stepped up to the free throw line, I just tried to keep that out of my head, step up and hit them like I do in practice.”
While Trojans coach Brett Seidel was initially livid with the foul on Fishbaugh — he felt Stuart should have been called for a reach-in — he quickly deflected blame to his players, who missed 7-of-11 free throws in the fourth quarter.
It was a team effort, as the Trojans teamed up for the bricklaying.
Down 50-41 with just over four minutes remaining, the Pirates began their push with four points apiece from Sas, Jake O’Connor (11 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) and power forward Joe Tutie (13 points, 15 rebounds), who narrowed Black River’s deficit 54-51 with 45.7 seconds remaining on an up-and-under move.
On the ensuing inbounds, Fishbaugh broke free deep, caught a football-style pass and went up for a wide-open dunk. He lost the handle on the way up, and teammate Austin Hintz (11 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) missed the equally wide-open putback.
Tutie responded with another score on the block, and Sweeting split a pair of free throws.
Clements tried to play hero with an open 3-pointer from the corner. The air-ball was tipped off the glass, but Sas soared over two defenders to nudge the loose ball through the basket with 6.5 seconds remaining.
South Central’s Nick Kirk had a shot to win the game at the other end, but a 3-pointer fading to his left was off the mark.
“I was actually posting up for the ball, and Brian went on ahead and shot it,” Sas said of the game-tying bucket. “I heard the words come out of his mouth, ‘Oh, crap.’ so then I was like, ‘Oh, geez.’
“I just tried my best to go up and get the ball, and luckily my hand hit it and went in.”
The game was a fitting end for the Black River seniors, who finished the season 6-4 at home.
Clements, Tutie, Sas, Stuart and Jake O’Connor scored 20 of the Pirates’ 22 points over the final 12 minutes. Tutie scored six points and grabbed 10 rebounds during that span, while Sas and O’Connor made up for lackluster starts with 10 points.
Stuart was the hero in overtime, and Clements scored five of his seven points in the second quarter on a nice display of pull-up jumpers on the baseline.
Fishbaugh and Hintz combined for 39 points and 18 rebounds for the Trojans, who are destined to finish third in the Firelands Conference, which Black River was a member of from 1964-93.
“Coach (Don Brunker) said he was going to leave us seniors in in overtime to get it done,” Tutie said. “It feels amazing.
“Honestly, everybody was angry that we were about to lose in front of everybody on senior night. I think everyone stepped it up.”
Black River had just four assists on 23 field goals, with O’Connor finishing with three.
• Gus Kazek had 20 points in three quarters of play as Black River’s junior varsity team lost 53-39.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.