MEDINA — Point guard Zach Bennett held the ball near midcourt in double overtime. The lively crowd slowly rose to its feet as the seconds ticked away.
The Medina boys basketball team knew what it was going to do. Brunswick had been paying special attention to All-Ohioan Craig Randall, so Bees coach Anthony Stacey drew up a play for his shooting guard to get a 3-pointer from the corner.
That didn’t happen. The Blue Devils double-teamed Randall.
The problem was they forgot about Branden Wilkins.
Left all alone underneath the basket, Wilkins took a backhanded pass from Randall and scored with 1.8 seconds remaining Monday to give Medina a thrilling 58-56 Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division victory.
“They doubled (Randall) and I guess they forgot to cover the basket,” said Wilkins, who finished with a game-high 27 points and nine rebounds. “That’s the one we needed.
“This was definitely more intense. To win in double-overtime by two (points), it’s definitely more intense than to win by 30.”
The Bees (14-2, 7-1), who defeated the Blue Devils 63-35 on Dec. 6, rallied from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit and survived to live for overtime when Brunswick star Ryan Badowski (18 points) airballed a 3-pointer as the regulation buzzer sounded.
Badowski and Wilkins then traded buckets in the first OT, which ended when Randall just missed a fadeaway, double-teamed 25-footer.
Brunswick’s Steven Ficyk kicked off the second overtime with a 3-pointer after faking a handoff to Badowski. Randall countered with a 3-pointer before the Blue Devils’ Anthony Slane turned the ball over on a handoff attempt to Jason Okulovich (career-high 15 points).
That set up the final minute spent mostly with Bennett and Randall, who had 18 points but finished 6-for-22 from the field, taking turns holding the ball while Brunswick sat in its 2-3 zone.
The Blue Devils had one last gasp following Wilkins’ score, as Okulovich found a streaking Badowski near center court. The Longwood (Va.) recruit’s 30-foot leaner in front of the Brunswick bench looked true, but caromed short off glass and then rim as the buzzer sounded.
The collective sigh from the Medina faithful could be heard a mile away as the Bees took a half-game over Shaker Heights (14-4, 6-1) in the division standings.
“It’s obviously not the outcome we wanted,” Brunswick coach Joe Mackey said. “It stings, but we’re getting better. The score indicates that.”
Learning from its earlier blowout loss to Medina, Brunswick (9-6, 3-4) dictated a slow pace to put itself in position for what could have been a big upset.
Okulovich was at the heart of that early, as the junior point guard scored all 15 of his points in the first half. Badowski started slowly against solid defense from Bennett and Tyler King, but carried the Blue Devils with 13 points in the second half and overtimes.
The Blue Devils finished the third quarter with a 3-pointer from Badowski, then a transition dunk by Zach Parker (11 points) after Medina turned the ball over while playing for the last shot. They then took their biggest lead, 45-38, when Badowski drove down the key for a layup to begin the fourth.
“They had a good game plan,” Stacey said. “Badowski played well today. They fought, but they lost.”
It was at that point that Wilkins decided he’d had enough.
The 6-5 senior power forward scored the Bees’ final seven points of regulation after Mike Kaminski (9 points, 4 rebounds) got Medina to within 46-44. Wilkins finished with 20 points over the final 24 minutes, including ultimately sending the game to overtime at 51 with a putback.
The performance will be one he’ll remember for a while, especially if the Bees can secure their second Valley Division title.
“We knew we were going to win the game,” he said. “I knew it as soon as we stepped on the court we were going to win the game.”
Junior post Ryan Soldano had 17 points and eight rebounds as Medina’s junior varsity won 51-37. Sophomore guard Zach Cebula had nine points for Brunswick, which started the game 1-for-15 from the floor while falling behind 22-3.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.