The journey continues.
Saturday afternoon, the next chapter of Hoops on the Prairie will be written when the Rocky River boys basketball team tangles with Toledo Rogers out in Bowling Green in a Division II regional championship game.
The Pirates come into the game with a record of 22-2 after Kyle Dunne’s 3-pointer with 10.7 seconds left gave them a 54-52 win over Van Wert Thursday night. The Rams, playing in their first-ever regional tournament, took out Mansfield Madison, 78-62, in Thursday’s second game at Anderson Arena.
Tip off on Saturday is 3 p.m., with the winner advancing to the OHSAA state semifinals in Columbus next Thursday at 2 p.m. against either Roger Bacon or Thurgood Marshall.
But a chance at that scenario would never of happened without the some clutch shooting and staunch defense down the stretch for the Pirates.
With River trailing 51-45, senior James Meyer inbounded the ball in the forecourt, got it back and drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing. With just over four minutes left in the game, Meyer’s trey seemed to pump new life into a Pirate team that had squandered a 34-27 halftime lead.
A Dunne free throw and two more from the stripe seconds later by Jonathan Lihani tied the game at 51-51 with 2:51 remaining in regulation. With Van Wert taking a time out with 1:26 left in the game, everyone in Anderson Arena knew who was getting the ball next for the Cougars.
Corey Clifton, the team’s leading scorer, had hit the game-winning free throws in the Cougars’ district championship win over Celina. He eventually drew a foul with 24.7 seconds left, but could only manage a split.
River brought the ball down floor and got the ball to Jimmy Corrigan, who was coming off a screen. He was quickly covered, passing the ball up to Meyer at the top of the key. Meyer squared up, then shot a pass to his left to the wide-open Dunne.
Dunne never hesitated. His shot hit nothing but net, giving the Pirates a 54-52 lead, the team’s first lead since the beginning of the second half.
Van Wert quickly advanced the ball up court, with Clifton launching a contested trey from the right wing. The shot missed its mark, with River’s Joey Kinsely snaring the rebound with just under two seconds remaining.
After a timeout, River inbounded the ball to Dunne, who was immediately fouled with 1.1 seconds remaining. It was only the sixth team foul on the Cougars, so River had to inbound the ball again. The second inbounds pass found its way to Meyer, who was streaking uncontested up the sideline.
A jubilant Meyer threw the ball into the air as the horn sounded.
“Right when it left my hand, I knew it was going in,” said Dunne of his game-winning shot. “It felt great.
“It was a great atmosphere. A great arena, great hoops. I liked it all,” Dunne said of the electric atmosphere in Anderson Arena, which closes after the tournament. “We got out here early and got some practice shots in before the game, and I think that helped a lot.”
River made 20 of 43 shots from the floor for 47 percent, and made 10 of 11 free throws. Van Wert was even hotter, shooting 57 percent from the floor. But the Cougars committed 21 turnovers, a handful of which fueled River’s fourth-quarter comeback.
Van Wert closed out its season at 19-5.
River on the radio
For those Rocky River fans unable to make the trek out to Bowling Green, the regional championship game with Toledo Rogers will be broadcast live on WEOL AM 930. The game can also be heard at www.weol.com.
The broadcast will begin at 2:30 p.m. with the pregame show, followed by the game call at 3 p.m.