In the eye of the D-Holder

Heidelberg’s Deonte Holder came to the bench with a message for his coach.

Holder had just watched his team squander a seven point lead in the final 1:16 of regulation. Lucas Pennington’s 3 from the right wing gave visiting Ohio Northern a 75-74 lead with 13 second left. HU inbounded the ball, then its coach, Andy Bucheit, called for time with 6.1 seconds on the clock.

Moments later, Bucheit was met by Holder.

The message was simple:

“Give me the ball.”

Originally, Bucheit drew up a play for Keith Mackie, who had scored 15 points.

But Holder changed his coach’s mind.

“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in our guys,” Bucheit said. “So when he stepped up and said it like he did, I made a last-minute decision and gave it to him.”

It ended up being the correct decision.

Holder drove to the basket and dropped in a layup with 1.4 seconds remaining, giving HU 76-75 advantage.

ONU’s ensuing inbound pass hit the ceiling, a turnover. Mackie was then fouled and made two free throws. Heidelberg picked up its first OAC win of the season, a 78-75 triumph over ONU.

“Once I go toward the basket, there’s nobody stopping me,” said Holder, who finished with 13 points and three assists.

For Ohio Northern coach Kevin Byrne, it was two things: A good play by Holder, and a defensive breakdown by his team.

“We wanted to switch at the end, we wanted to protect the basket with our big guy; he got sucked out higher than he probably should have,” Byrne said. “Obviously, the disappointment for us is not at least forcing him to make a more difficult shot. We should be able to do better.

“Again, they executed it, ran a nice play. He’s a very nice player, Holder is,” Byrne said. “We have to be better than just giving him a right-handed layup just dribbling to the basket.”

For much of the final minutes, it looked like the dramatics wouldn’t be needed. Mike Petrie tied a career high with 29 points, and his free throws with 1:18 remaining put HU up, 74-67.

But the Polar Bears didn’t fold.

Instead, capitalizing on some HU turnovers and some missed foul shots, they got in position to tie or take the lead. When Pennington hit a 3 off an inbound pass, it capped an 8-0 run.

“It was what we were looking for,” Byrne said of Pennington’s trey. “We kind did a little deviation on our inbounds play and got Pennington … a clean look at it.”

And yet, Petrie said the Student Princes didn’t get down.

“It’s a testament to our team’s character, and our belief in our coach and our teammates,” Petrie said. “When the going got hard and they got back in the game, a couple calls didn’t go our way, I didn’t see one person drop their head.”

Mackie finished with 17 points, while Columbian graduate Cole Williams led the Student Princes (5-9, 1-6) up front with seven rebounds.

Ohio Northern (7-7, 3-4) got 21 points and eight rebounds from Jared Horstman. Dominique Royal added 14 points for the Polar Bears.