FINDLAY – It’s the kind of play a player dreams of as a little kid.
Having the ball with time expiring and firing the shot that can win it for your team.
In the Division III sectional semifinal opener Tuesday at Findlay High, there were not one but two buzzer beaters to keep Lakota and Hopewell-Loudon alive in the postseason.
Lakota’s Colin Timmons buried a mid-range jumper just inside the arc with a second left to give the Raiders a 63-62 victory in the opener over Elmwood. In a game of one-upmanship, Hopewell-Loudon’s Ryan Lommerse buried a 3-pointer in overtime to oust Riverdale, 76-73.
The victories move Lakota and Hopewell-Loudon on to face Liberty-Benton and Carey, respectively, Friday back at Findlay High.
Lommerse’s heroics saved the game from going to double overtime. Riverdale’s Jimmy Fox buried a 3-pointer with 15 seconds to go in overtime to complete a flurried comeback from five down with 48 seconds to go. The inbound pass found Garret Sendelbach who weaseled his way up the sideline before running into the trap just over half court. He squeezed a pass out to Lommerse who fired a 3-pointer that tickled the twine as time expired.
“That was just awesome. What a game,” Hopewell-Loudon coach Adam Smith said. “We got up early and then were down nine and then played with the lead most of the second half and then gave it way. Built the lead in overtime and gave it away again. The fight by my guys was just impressive.”
Riverdale coach Craig Taylor said he thought it was going to another overtime.
“Jimmy Fox hit a big shot that I thought was going to send it into another overtime and they get the ball to Lommerse and he hits a big shot,” Taylor said. “We had no answer for him all night. We kept telling them, force him left, force him left but he was just so strong with the basketball, he just took us off the dribble and went in and shot layups. He’s a good player.”
The last 15 seconds were a microcosm of the game as the two teams traded leads throughout the game. Riverdale trailed the Chieftains, 17-16, after the first quarter but took a 34-33 lead into the half. Hopewell-Loudon (14-9) erupted for a 10-3 spurt to start the third and led 50-43 after three quarters. They increased it to nine, 56-47, with just under six minutes to go before falling into Riverdale’s trap.
Five turnovers later and Riverdale led 64-62 with a minute and a half to go.
Lommerse took it baseline and scored a pair of free throws when he was fouled to tie it with 1:14 to go. Riverdale held for the final shot but the shot caromed off forcing overtime.
Two minutes in, Riverdale was down to Hopewell-Loudon, 70-64, and Taylor called the time out. Three turnovers later, it was a tie game, setting the stage for Lommerse’s game winner.
Smith said in that situation he would typically call a timeout but he was paranoid his squad wouldn’t be able to get the ball in.
“Typically when they tie it up, you want to call a timeout but I was terrified of having to inbound the ball again,” said Smith, referring to the two 5-second calls he had go against his team in the fourth quarter. “I didn’t want to have to get the ball inbound and go against the trap. I figured Garret’s playing well. Ryan’s playing well. I just figured, let’s go live and hope one of them makes a play.”
Lommerse said he and his teammates were concerned about that as well.
“(The first thing I thought) was we just have to get it in because they were doing well in the trap,” Lommerse said. “Garret dribbled up the sideline, got trapped and I just tried to find the open spot and he hit me and I hit the shot.”
Lommerse finished with 34 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals. Sendelbach buried four 3-pointers on his way to 19 points. He also dished out 10 assists. Weston Hill had 10 points and nine rebounds.
“Ryan Lommerse, Garret Sendelbach just threw us on their back and Weston Hill and the whole team played great,” Smith said.
Riverdale’s Fox poured in 24 with Holderman scoring 20. Chad Pever tossed in 13 in the loss for the Falcons (8-15).
“They fought like heck to come back,” Taylor said of his team. “Unfortunately, they waited until there was six minutes to go in the game to start playing. (It was) not our game plan but I give our guys credit for coming back.”
The opener was a bit different as Elmwood controlled the score most of the game. Lakota (8-14) led 9-6 four minutes into the game but didn’t lead again until Timmons hit the game winner.
“Give Lakota all the credit in the world. They played better than us down the stretch. They seemed like they hit every shot when they needed to,” Elmwood coach Ty Traxler said. “I hate to simplify it, but when you don’t hit free throws down the stretch and then don’t defend, it’s a bad combination to win a close game. All the credit in the world goes to them. They made plays. We didn’t.”
Lakota shot the lights out, making 24 of 34 from the field. But it was the turnovers, 14 of them, that kept Elmwood in control most of the game.
“We’ve struggled with shooting all year but the last few games we’ve been shooting better each game and our percentages have been going up,” Lakota coach Tim Walsh said. “It’s just like anything else, we work on it and eventually we got better.”
The Royals (6-17) led by 14 at half, 38-24.
But Lakota couldn’t miss in the third quarter, going 7 for 8 from the field and 5 for 6 from the line to cut the lead to 49-45 by the start of the fourth.
“The first half was kind of shaky but I thought our kids responded well after halftime and just kept playing hard, forced some turnovers and made a comeback,” Walsh said.
It was more of the same in the final quarter as the Raiders were 7 for 9 from the field and 4 for 6 from the line. Josh Kirkpatrick cut it to 60-59 with 44.5 seconds to go before Lakota was forced to foul Tayte Lentz, who buried both his free throws to make it 62-59 with 26.7 seconds to go.
Kyle Below gobbled up a Kirkpatrick miss and scored on the putback, drawing the foul in the process. He missed the free throw, leaving Lakota down one, 62-61, with 8.5 seconds to go. Timmons immediately fouled Aaron Arnold, who scored 17 in the game. With 7.4 seconds to go, Arnold missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw and Timmons snared the miss, racing up court stepping inside the arc, just left of the circle and fired over an Elmwood defender and found the bottom of the net.
“When there was five seconds left, I was, like, ‘I have to shoot my shot.’ That’s a shot me and my dad practice all the time, shooting right over people,” Timmons said. “We just practiced five-second drills. I just knew I had to get the ball down there as fast as I could and shoot my mid-range shot and it just went in.”
Traxler immediately called a timeout and the referees determined there was 0.5 seconds left on the clock for a play. The Elmwood inbound pass sailed over its intended target and the buzzer sounded.
Timmons finished with 17 points, six rebounds and two blocks. Kirkpatrick and Hunter Chalfin each had 12 points in the victory.
Trevor Solether led all scorers with 23 points while teammate Deven Peter, had 10 points in the loss.
“Maybe we didn’t get shots we needed when we could have buried them. We took a lot of contested shots, rushed shots,” Traxler said. “I don’t think you underestimate how bad we played in the second half to give up that many points in the second half. What did we give up, 40 points, in the second half? And that’s not the first time that’s happened this season. We’re not a good basketball team, frankly.”