BRUNSWICK — Kyle Wheeler wasn’t starting the mosh pit Friday without Tom Harrington.
With his Brunswick jersey peeled off, Wheeler ran outside the locker room, bear-hugged the assistant coach and dragged him inside while laughing along the way. Once there, one of the wildest celebrations under longtime head coach Joe Mackey could probably be heard a mile away.
“We went nuts,” Wheeler said.
The Blue Devils had a great reason to celebrate. They had just knocked off the No. 8 team in the Associated Press Division I state boys basketball poll.
Final score: Brunswick 68, Mentor 64 in another Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division shocker.
After a grueling regular season that featured a brutal schedule, suspensions and injuries, the Blue Devils are hungry — very, very hungry — heading into next week’s Copley D-I District.
“We wanted to send a message out to Copley,” Wheeler said. “We’re there and we’re there to win that district.”
Brunswick (12-10, 5-5), whose victory gave Shaker Heights (16-6, 8-2) the outright Valley title, now owns wins over the Cardinals (17-5, 7-3), Garfield Heights (15-6, 6-4) and the Red Raiders within the last 19 days.
Against Mentor, the Blue Devils blew a 14-point first-half lead but regained their composure quickly, took the lead for good on a pair of Alex Hartill free throws with 2 minutes to go and made things interesting by missing four straight free throws before Taylor Armagost delivered the clinching freebie with 8 seconds left.
The Cardinals were led by 27 points, five rebounds and five assists from rugged point guard Jeff Foreman, but leading scorer Caleb Potter (14.8) was scoreless on 0-of-7 shooting.
Mentor’s final four possessions resulted in an air-balled 3-pointer and missed putback, a turnover, a failed contested layup and a clanged half-court heave.
All that was left was for the Brunswick student section to storm the court, which it promptly did in style on senior night.
“It’s a tribute to our kids,” Mackey said. “They never quit.”
The Blue Devils had plenty of heroes. Zach Parker had 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, and Wheeler tallied 11 points and seven assists. Power forward Patrick Jarvis bulled his way to 11 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two assists, while Ryan Badowski (14 points, 3 assists) brought the capacity crowd to its feet with a one-handed slam in the second quarter.
“Everybody was amped up to play,” Jarvis said. “Everyone who came in contributed and didn’t make any mistakes. Everybody did their role, and that’s what won us the game.”
Brunswick made 7-of-17 first-half 3-pointers on its way to taking a 38-24 lead late in the second period. The Blue Devils came up empty on four possessions with rushed shots, however, and that allowed Mentor to close the half on a 7-0 run.
The Cardinals methodically clawed back in the third quarter and took their first lead (49-48) on a 3-pointer by shooting guard Conner Krizancic (13 points), but Parker answered almost immediately from long distance.
Brunswick never trailed again, though it wasn’t without shaky moments.
Parker and Wheeler made four straight free throws to put the Blue Devils up 66-62 with 47.6 seconds left. Foreman made a pair of free throws 7 seconds later, and Wheeler countered with 1-of-2 from the line to make it 67-64.
At the other end, McClure airmailed a good look from the corner, and it appeared Brunswick, which entered play shooting .716 at the stripe, was going to hold on with Armagost at the line. However, he and Badowski sandwiched four straight misses around a Krizancic turnover to give the Cardinals a last breath.
Luckily for Brunswick, Foreman missed a contested layup, leading to Armagost grabbing the board and making the first of two free throws with 8 ticks remaining.
Signature win complete.
“I love my team,” Jarvis said, “and I love winning.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.