EATON TWP. — Six-foot-8 Kenny Kaminski sat on Medina’s bench and watched in agony as his teammates blew what appeared to be a safe lead.
Lorain’s Michael Davila scored 12 of Lorain’s last 14 points, leading the Titans to a 53-51 heart-pounding win at the Grafton Division I Sectional finals.
Lorain (14-8), which rallied from a 48-39 hole over the final 2½ minutes, advances to play top-seeded Strongsville on Thursday.
Medina (10-12) played the entire game without Michigan State recruit Kaminski, its leading scorer and rebounder who suffered an Achilles heel tendon injury late in the Bees’ opening-round win over Elyria. Medina ran a controlled, possession-by-possession scheme Saturday and the strategy nearly worked.
“They surely committed to our game plan,” coach Jody Peters said. “They did everything they could and battled the whole way. I cannot fault their effort. I’m really, really proud of them.”
The Bees nearly pulled the game out of the fire just before the buzzer sounded. Medina’s Justin Letts hoisted a desperation 3-pointer that missed right, and Davila slapped it to sophomore Logan Winkler for a wide-open 3-pointer that could have sent the Bees home a winner.
Winkler’s 25-foot attempt came up a bit short and failed to draw iron.
“From where I was standing, that thing was going straight at the rim,” Lorain coach Andy Bastock said. “My heart stopped. Mikey (Davila), instead of grabbing the rebound, smacked it out thinking there was less time on the clock. When that thing fell short, I can’t even explain it to you.”
“I didn’t think there was any time on the clock,” Davila said. “I tried tipping it as high as I can, but I tipped it straight to (Winkler), but luckily he air-balled it.”
Davila led Lorain with 19 points and was credited with four steals, but it was his ability to regain control of the ball as he drove down the lane and somehow got a shot off in the final 25 seconds of the game that lifted Lorain to the lead. He completed the three-point play with a free throw to set up the final sequence.
“My team kept getting me the ball and I kept making plays,” Davila said. “It was just heart. I’m just happy my team came to play with heart.”
A.J. Craighead, as he is accustomed to do, came off the bench to spark Lorain with 16 points. When Theron Nelson injured his ankle in the first quarter, Craighead had to step up. Lorain was already without two sometime starters in the injured Teddy Wilson and Tevvin Jones, who was dismissed from the team for rules violations just prior to the tournament.
The Bees appeared to have the game in control when Colin Bradley swished a 3-point shot from the left baseline with only 2:32 to play to give Medina a nine-point lead and complete an 18-5 run.
“They could have faded when they got down,” Medina coach Jody Peters said. “Their pressure really hurt us coming down the stretch. We didn’t do the job we needed to do taking care of the basketball.”
Lorain turned up the heat in the final moments and forced a number of turnovers that Davila quickly turned into points. Craighead had the only other score during the Titans rally and that came off a Davila steal to give Lorain a 51-50 lead with 48 seconds left. Medina’s Justin Letts threw in a pair of free throws with 41 seconds to go before Davila’s sensational play that proved the game-winner.
Medina received sterling efforts from guards Letts, Winkler and Billy Geschke, who combined for 20 points and six assists. Letts added seven rebounds and three steals. Mason Schreck led the scoring with 12 points, while Jake Kinsey chipped in 10.
“With the adversity we faced, we did have to come out and play as hard and as well as we did,” Peters said. “I’m really proud of them.
“But little things hurt us. Turnovers here, there hurt us. We have to make all our free throws in these kind of games. We missed too many layups. We had some chippies we had to make for us to win. In this situation, we had to get those things done.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at (440) 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.