WESTFIELD TWP. — Mansfield Madison senior Kobi Johnson will never forget his moment in the sun.
The Cloverleaf boys basketball team won’t, either, for all the wrong reasons.
Johnson hit a driving layup as time expired Saturday, capping an epic comeback that gave the Rams a 53-51 non-league win.
The 6-foot-2 guard’s heroics higlighted a 12-1 run by Madison (2-17) over the final 2½ minutes.
There are few more memorable ways to snap a 15-game losing streak.
“It hurts a lot,” Cloverleaf coach Marty Ryan said. “It hurts a lot.”
The Colts (4-15) led 50-41 after Adam Podolak (13 points) hit a 3-pointer in the corner. At that moment, there was no way they could have envisioned the impending collapse.
Cloverleaf’s final seven possessions were as followed: ill-advised missed 3-pointer, clanked front end of a 1-and-1, turnover, charging foul, bricked front end of a 1-and-1, made 1-of-2 free throws and stepped out of bounds.
The final miscue allowed the Rams to steal victory from the jaws of defeat. A pick was set for Johnson, who caught the ball at the 3-point arc. With a defender riding his non-shooting hip, he drove almost virtually unopposed toward the hoop, avoided a steal attempt by Robby Buckwald and laid in the rock at the buzzer.
Mob celebration, commence.
“I just knew I wasn’t going to stop,” Johnson said with a broad smile after one of his teammates yelled, “Kobi Johnson for president.”
A three-point play by Madison’s Cody Harris made it 50-44. Johnson then canned four free throws over back-to-back possessions to make it 50-48 with 29.9 seconds — one pair came after he was fouled underneath the opposite basket — until Podolak split a 1-and-1 at 15.9 seconds.
Madison moved the ball to its end and called timeout. Coy Vantilburg grabbed the inbounds pass with his back to the basket and faked a handoff to Johnson.
Vantilburg then turned, stepped back and drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game with 8 seconds left.
The Colts inbounded quickly before Ryan called timeout. Podolak then curled and caught the ball, but stepped on the sideline with 3.8 ticks remaining to set up Johnson’s heroics.
“We didn’t finish,” Ryan said.
It was a meltdown that was hard to fathom considering Cloverleaf’s efficiency for the first 29½ minutes.
The Colts finished 16-of-30 (.533) from the floor, including 11-of-19 in the middle quarters, when they made 12-of-15 free throws. They also had 13 assists, with Buckwald, Buckholz, Brandon Johnson and Cliff Collyer each having two or more.
Buckwald finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four blocks. Fellow senior Brandt Buckholz had seven points, seven boards and four steals, while junior backup Ryan O’Callaghan added a career-high 11 points.
Unfortunately for Cloverleaf, 29½ minutes of excellence were completely negated in just 2½.
“We were in position to win the ballgame,” Ryan said. “We just didn’t make the right choices.”
Colts senior J.D. Schleich got the start in a token of appreciation on senior night. Buckholz won the tipoff and the referees stopped play so Schleich could receive an ovation as he walked off the court. Schleich, a two-year starter, has played in only one other game this season due to a shoulder injury.
Dillon Mullins had 22 points as Cloverleaf’s junior varsity lost 61-53.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.