GRANGER TWP. — The road to the Suburban League boys basketball title is paved with potholes and speed bumps.
Front-running Highland hit a big one Tuesday night, falling 60-58 to Nordonia in overtime and moving back into a tie with Green (13-6, 9-3) with two games to play.
“We were disappointed with how we started,” Highland coach Michael Murphy said. “Our energy was good at the beginning, but we just missed a ton of shots. I was proud that we got back in the game, and when that starts to happen, they feel like it’s going the other way.”
After battling back from an early 9-0 deficit behind some big shots from Alex Wood, Brogan Scott and Tanner Houska, the Hornets forced the extra period.
Tied at 52 after a putback by Scott (16 points, 10 rebounds) with 1:13 left in the fourth quarter, Nordonia (11-7, 6-5) chose to space the floor and play for the last shot.
A foul by Highland (13-6, 9-3) and a Knights timeout delayed the final shot briefly, but Eli Linder (12 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) finally drove to the paint with 7 seconds left and lost possession as the clock ran out.
The teams went back and forth in overtime and, once again, it came down to the final minute.
David Murray (15 points) split a pair of free throws to give Nordonia a 57-56 with 1:06 left, while Scott did one better on the ensuing possession with a pair of freebies.
Murray headed back to the charity stripe for the Knights down 54-53 and this time buried both to push Nordonia back out in front.
With the clock running down, Highland got the ball in the hands of Houska, who drove into the teeth of the defense and drew contact.
No foul was called as the junior flung the ball desperately toward the basket.
“We had a screen-and roll going with Brogan and Tanner — obviously, our two best players,” Murphy said. “Tanner saw a crease that he thought he could get to — I need to watch it (on film) — but to me it looked like he had a 7- or 8-footer that he could have got up at the rim. He made a decision to try and get all the way.”
The ball clanged off the bottom of the rim, and Diallo Niamke (15 points, 10 rebounds) hauled in the rebound before immediately being fouled by Scott.
Niamke hit the first attempt, but the second bounced out.
Scott grabbed the rebound and raced up the floor, but his desperation 30-footer at the buzzer came up short and Nordonia escaped with the mild upset.
“We’ve been through adversity,” Niamke said. “I feel like we’re playing good at the right time. We fought through adversity and kept our heads up. Once we got into overtime, we had faith that we could pull out the victory.”
Highland coasted to a 57-34 win in the junior varsity contest. Isaac Matejin (11 points) and Billy Kirchner (10) paced the Hornets.
Contact Chad Grant at email@example.com.