GRANGER TWP. — The T-shirts and hats that said “Suburban League champions” were sitting in the locker room, ready to be worn. The only thing left to do was make the ceremony a joyous one.
Having previously clinched a share of the SL title, the Highland boys basketball team won the crown outright Friday by defeating sixth-place Copley 52-47.
The traditional cutting of the nets began fittingly with senior three-year letterwinner Alex Wood and ended with second-year coach Michael Murphy, then gave way to a postgame banquet of sorts in the cafeteria.
“It’s probably the best feeling all year, and an adrenaline rush, too,” senior Alec Withers said. “We worked so hard, and it paid off.
“(Cutting down the net) felt great. It felt right. We deserved it knowing we’ve come this far.”
Despite its own high preseason expectations, Highland (15-6, 11-3) had a big question mark in the post, but the unselfishness of Withers and Brogan Scott’s move from small forward to center were big reasons why the Hornets secured their fourth SL title.
Friday, however, the 6-foot-1 Withers, not the 6-5 Scott, played the high post against the 3-2 zone of the Indians (8-14, 5-9). Last season’s starting shooting guard for the junior varsity responded with 17 points and three rebounds.
Meanwhile, three-year starter Scott spent more time on the perimeter and finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and four steals, allowing Highland to survive despite surrendering a combined 25 points and 14 rebounds to Copley center Brandon Chillious and offensive lineman-sized backup Justin Hovorka.
“We were motivated since the beginning of the season,” Scott said while receiving a congratulatory hug from his grandmother. “Everyone’s goal is to win the Suburban League, and after (the media) said we were too small, it kind of fired us all up. We wanted to prove that wrong.
“It’s a great feeling. It just made my night so much better winning it outright and not sharing with anyone.”
The inconsistent and oftentimes sloppy Hornets needed everything they could get from Withers and Scott to fend off the undersized but scrappy Indians.
Highland trailed by one possession midway through the third quarter before Scott and point guard Tanner Houska (11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) scored seven straight points to ultimately put the Hornets up for good.
Even so, Highland, which also received nine key points from backup Kevin Greenhoe, was clinging to a 47-45 with 1:55 to go after Copley’s Connor Huth found Chillious for a layup. The Hornets then went to a spread offense and survived some sketchy moments before Ben Hauser found Withers all alone near the rim.
Withers softly scored while being intentionally fouled by Hovorka with 40.6 seconds left. Withers hit both free throws to make it 51-46 and tallied the final statistic of the game with a defensive rebound moments before time expired.
Let the net-cutting commence.
“At the end, our defense was a lot better,” Withers said. “We got stops.”
|Scott passed Medina County Sports Hall of Famer Mike Webster (932 points, 1953-56) for fourth place on the school’s career scoring list with a 3-pointer in the third quarter. Scott (936 points) also became the seventh Hornets player to reach 400 points in a season on the same shot.
The Indians went retro by wearing the jerseys from the 2006-07 team that went 20-0 in the regular season, causing the roster that was handed out at the gate to be wildly inaccurate. That team’s coach, Dana Addis, is now the principal at Highland.
The Copley junior varsity secured a 22-0 season with a 48-28 victory. Billy Kirchner had seven points for the Hornets.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highland 52, Copley 47
COPLEY 10 14 13 10 — 47
HIGHLAND 15 11 14 12 — 52
Copley — Larry Spear 3-0-7, Will Andrew 1-0-2, Brandon Chillious 7-0-14, Connor Huth 1-0-2, Todd Williams 4-3-11, Will Thomas 0-0-0, Justin Hovorka 4-3-11, Larnell Nealy 0-0-0, Austin Brenner 0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-6-47.
Highland — Alex Wood 0-0-0, Brogan Scott 4-5-15, Alec Withers 5-7-17, Mason Weiss 0-0-0, Tanner Houska 4-3-11, Kevin Greenhoe 4-0-9, Ben Hauser 0-0-0, Coltin Kinsey 0-0-0, Tyler Frederick 0-0-0, Zach Levine 0-0-0. TOTALS: 17-16-52.
3-point goals — Spear, Scott 2. Rebounds — Copley 26 (Hovorka 8), Highland 27 (Scott 11). Assists — Copley 8 (Huth 5), Highland 9 (Houska 3). Records — Copley (8-14, 5-9), Highland (15-6, 11-3). Junior varsity — Copley 48, Highland 28.