OLD FORT – For the record, Matt Hill didn’t call his bank shot 3-pointer near the end of regulation. But no one remotely affiliated with Old Fort basketball cared about technicalities against highly-regarded Zach Garber and the Vanlue Wildcats.
Not that one, and not the one that occurred at the end of the first overtime when a good 3-pointer by Vanlue’s Austin Smith was waved off because his coach, Dean Birchmeier, asked for time just before the ball left Smith’s hands.
Normalcy, in a manner of speaking, returned in a second overtime, and that meant Old Fort’s Dalton Perry was in charge. Perry hit a 3-pointer and later added a layup as the Stockaders opened a five-point lead and held on for a 63-62 win.
“It was a game that was not our style of game,” Old Fort coach Eric Hoover said after his seventh-ranked Stockaders improved to 15-1 while dropping the Wildcats to 10-3. “It was mostly a half-court game and it was nice to see us execute just well enough on the offensive end and on defense to get a win against a really good team.”
The main challenge came from the 6-foot-10 Garber, a University of Toledo recruit who put up recruit-worthy numbers – 25 points, 16 rebounds, four blocks and a couple assists. Guard Linden Smith lent a hand with 16 points.
Their team had a 52-47 lead with 51 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats couldn’t hold off the Stockaders.
Hunter Perry, who tossed in 20 points to go with six rebounds and four assists, hit a jumper with 37 seconds left. Then, after Garber was unable to get a foul shot to fall, Old Fort had a chance to tie coming out of a timeout with 15 seconds left.
The ball went to Hill, who launched a 21-footer that banked in off the glass to tie it at 52-52 and send the game to overtime.
“We needed a shot because we were down and time was down,” Hill said. “They said ‘Pop it,’ and I did and it went in. I was a little nervous. I thought it was an airball, but I got lucky, I guess.”
“I called (the bankshot) for him when it was in the air,” said Hoover, unable to hide his smile. “I’m sure no one heard me, but I knew it was the only way it had a chance.”
It was the Perry brothers vs. Garber, at least in terms of scoring, in the first overtime. Garber had a putback and two foul shots. But Hunter Perry countered the former with a foul-line jumper and Dalton, who totaled 26 points and eight rebounds, covered the latter with a long-range tip-in with 59 seconds left to make it 56-56.
Vanlue had the final possession, but Birchmeier didn’t like how the offensive set was developing. Just after one of the officials noted Birchmeier’s call for time, Smith let a 3-pointer fly and it dropped through the hoop.
“I tried to call it with four seconds left, but the gym was loud and (the official) didn’t hear me,” Birchmeier said. “I had to run right up to him to call it. The play had broken down, so I wanted a time out. But the ball moved a couple of times by the time I got the timeout.”
“That’s just one of those breaks,” Hoover said. “You have decisions you have to make like that as a coach. The same thing could happen to anybody, but obviously, I was quite grateful he called it when he did.”
At 6-foot-2, Dalton Perry gave up eight inches to Garber in working the post. But he challenged repeatedly with good results.
“I was never going to give up taking it to him,” Perry said. “I was going to keep taking it to him until I scored.”
He did that on several occasions, but perhaps his biggest shot was a 3-pointer to open the scoring with 1:33 left in the second overtime.
“Believe it or not, at one point in his life he was a guard,” Hoover said. “He still has that ability to step back and knock a shot down. That was big for us.”
Hunter Perry hit a couple foul shots but Garber matched those at the other end to make it 61-58 with 46 seconds left. But before the Wildcats could set their full-court defense, Dalton Perry got a breakaway layup for another five-point edge.
Austin Smith’s 3-pointer with 11 seconds left made it 63-61. Hill couldn’t get the front of a one-and-one to fall and the Wildcats rushed to other end.
Garber drew a foul at the buzzer and was awarded two shots. His first attempt bounced away, rendering his second-shot make meaningless.
“It was a gut-wrencher out there,” Birchmeier said. “They threw in a bank shot for three points at the end of regulation and we had a three called off because of a time out.
“We’ve had three games like that where it came down to the wire and we ended up one play short,” he said. “But I credit Old Fort tonight. They came to play and they made plays.”
In a variety of ways.