By Richard Doyle
PARMA HTS. — The Highland boys basketball team wanted to reverse its holiday misfortune after suffering a resounding defeat the day before to Nordonia. Facing pesky Valley Forge, the Hornets were able to earn their holiday break Saturday with an exciting 76-73 victory.
Led in scoring by the Scott brothers, senior Brennan (21 points, 9 rebounds) and sophomore Brogan (26 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals) Highland (5-3) thought its night would be a breeze when it outscored the Patriots (1-6) 26-8 in the first quarter.
But Valley Forge didn’t go quietly and took a 69-68 lead on a redemption 3-pointer by Rob Schmidt (13 points) with 2:58 remaining. A battle ensued from there, as the teams exchanged buckets until Highland held a one-point lead with 34 seconds remaining.
That’s when Highland’s own version of Santa Claus delivered his gift. With the ball in the hands of Patriots leading scorer Nick Postoloski (19 points, 5 assists), the star player made a strong move to the basket for what seemed to be an easy winning basket with 2.4 seconds left until, out of nowhere, Hornets big man Austin Adams (12 points, 6 assists, 5 blocks) came up with his biggest block of the night and denied the Valley Forge victory.
“That was huge,” Highland coach Michael Murphy said. “I thought the Patriots played well. They played really hard. It’s one of those things that when you get a team that shoots well, they can give you all kinds of fits. We couldn’t make a shot, and suddenly they caught fire.”
Highland’s fast start turned ugly quickly, as Valley Forge instituted a 2-2-1 press to start the second quarter. From that point forward, the Patriots outscored their opponent in each of the remaining quarters.
While the press didn’t lead to an abundance of turnovers, it caused the Hornets to shoot below-average from the field (30-of-77).
“We jumped out on them early, but then we got a little careless,” Murphy said. “Before we knew it, we had ourselves a ball game.
“It felt like 10 possessions in a row where they didn’t miss a shot.”
Indeed, they didn’t, as the Patriots outscored the Hornets 20-11 in the second quarter to go in at halftime only down by nine.
The nightmare continued for Murphy in the second half, as Valley Forge continued its pressure defense and went on a 24-9 run late in the third quarter. To make matters worse, Highland’s 3-point shooting was as chilled as the weather, as it made just 2-of-13 for the game, including 1-of-10 in the second half.
The Patriots seemed to have the momentum down only one late in the third until a foul was called on Schmidt (13 points), who subsequently got slapped with a technical for shoving Brennan Scott. The senior Scott confidently hit all four free throws, which started a 9-2 run for the Hornets.
“How about Brennan hitting all those free throws down the stretch? He didn’t miss a one,” Murphy beamed.
Valley Forge roared back, but in the end, “Santa Adams” delivered and the Hornets walked away with a hard-fought victory.
Highland had the Patriots outsized at every position on the floor, including the subs.
l The Patriot cheerleaders entertained the crowd by throwing candy to both teams’ fans as they danced to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”
l Landon Gonser scored 13 points as the Hornets junior varsity won 70-39. Josh Hadler added 10 points, while Alex Withers, Zach Levine, and Kevin Greenhoe each scored nine.
Contact Richard Doyle at email@example.com.