UPPER SANDUSKY - There is something to be said for enjoying the moment. But the longer the closing moment of Upper Sandusky's 59-46 win over Wynford got here Tuesday, the less enjoyable it became.
In what was set as a showdown for the Black Division championship of the North Central Conference, the Rams were especially dominant for much of the second half.
In fact, when Allison Snyder turned a steal into a layup for a 5-0 Ram start to the fourth quarter, it gave the host club its biggest lead of the night at 49-28 with 4:42 to go.
But the Royals threw up a mini-scare in the most efficient way by hitting 12-of-16 from the foul line and a couple 3-pointers.
The stopped-clock scoring was one thing, but there was also a Ram possession in which the scoreboard operator failed to start the clock. It stayed at 56 seconds until Taylor Graboski drew a foul. Her two foul shots closed the scoring and the Rams were eventually able to run out the clock.
"We called a timeout and told them to move your feet, contest the 3's and don't put them on the line," Ram coach Brent Fahle said. "Sometimes, uh, it happens."
And the operator error?
"I looked up at the clock and no time went off," he said with a half-smile. "You'd think we'd get a home-court advantage somehow. No harm, no foul, I guess."
The win virtually seals the division championship for Upper Sandusky, which improved to 15-3 overall and 10-0 in the conference. Wynford, the closest challenger, fell to 13-6 and 8-2.
"It gives us a little bit of a cushion," said Fahle, unwilling to claim anything more. "We were only up one game and we needed a championship effort. I thought this was a great team win.
"It gives us a cushion, up two with three games to go," he said. "It's a good feeling, but there is still a long way to go."
It was a championship battle for 11 minutes. The game was tied three times and the lead changed hands 11 times in that span.
Paige Brady's inside basket gave Wynford the edge at 20-19 with 5:21 to go. But Allison Snyder hit a 15-footer at the other end to regain the lead for good for Upper Sandusky.
Graboski scored on a drive and Savannah Piecha got a breakaway three-point play as the Rams eased into a 28-20 halftime edge.
The Royals were saddled with 15 turnovers at that point and they got three more in their first five possessions of the second half. They finished with 28 for the game.
"We knew if we turned the ball over we weren't going to have a chance to win," Wynford coach Amy Taylor-Sheldon said. "If we don't have opportunities to shoot, it's kind of tough to win. You have to give their defense credit. They forced us into making bad decisions with the ball."
Wynford was limited to eight points through the third period and three-plus minutes of the fourth.
At the other end, the Rams were putting together a balanced inside-outside attack. Jorden Born had 17 points and nine rebounds while Graboski was adding 12 points and 12 boards for the inside punch, Snyder added 12 points and Amber Cox contributed nine.
"People key on Graboski because she's one of the better players in the league," Fahle said. "I thought Allison Snyder hit some big shots and Jorden Born played a whale of a game. She was probably a key to our getting the victory."
Brady topped Wynford with 19 points and eight rebounds. But from there, the scoring dropped all the way down to seven points by Ellie Richmond.
Upper Sandusky out-goaled the Royals by five and the Rams hit 20-of-28 from the foul line. That latter success was significant in Taylor-Sheldon's eyes.
"They shot 10 percent better tonight than they typically do at the foul line," she said. "They typically shoot in the lower 60s but tonight they shot in the 70s.
"It was a disappointing loss because we felt like we had given ourselves a chance to win a North Central Conference championship game," she said. "But they played better than we did tonight."