By Dan Gilles
It’s been a long year for Olmsted Falls.
The Bulldogs entered Friday night’s Southwestern Conference game at Avon Lake with just one win in their previous nine games – a 45-44 victory over Midpark back on Dec. 13.
They proceeded to play much better than that – so much better, that the two teams needed not one, but two extra sessions to decide things.
The Shoremen rallied from a dismal first half to take control in the third and fourth quarters, only to see the Bulldogs rally with one of their many 3-pointers in the final seconds of regulation to tie things up and send it into overtime.
Finally, after 56 minutes of basketball, the Shoremen survived a tough test, defeating Olmsted Falls, 62-59, in Southwestern Conference action.
“I’ll be honest, this was an even better all-around effort than we had in our win,” Olmsted Falls coach Chris DeLisio said. “The way we played, I thought we played tough, physical, competitive. We made some big plays when we had to. I’m very proud of them.
“The outcome’s not what we want, but the process is what we definitely wanted. This is definitely something to build off of.”
Avon Lake (5-4, 3-2 in the SWC) took the lead for good in the second overtime when Eric Stuczynski – who led all scorers with 22 points – spilt a pair of free throws with 21 seconds remaining.
Stuczynski missed the second free throw, but Jimmy Hessell collared the rebound – his game-high 10th board – to keep Avon Lake in possession of the game. That proved huge moments later when Brandon Murway was fouled with 10.5 seconds remaining, and Murway sank both free throws to give the Shoremen a 62-59 lead.
Olmsted Falls, who sank 9-of-19 from beyond the 3-point arc, had one last chance to send the game into triple overtime. However, reserve Adam Asadorian’s open 3-pointer from the right elbow rattled in-and-out at the buzzer.
“You can’t ask for much more than that,” DeLisio said. “The ball was in and out, and what’s the difference between that in going in? Maybe a quarter-inch, I don’t know. I know it certainly looked good.
“(3-pointers) are something that we do because we have a few guys that can do it well. It’s also because of our personnel. We don’t necessarily have guys that can really attack the basket. We don’t have an Eric Stuczynski on our team.”
Stuczynski scored 13 of his 22 points in the third and fourth quarters and nine of his team’s 11 fourth-quarter points, helping his Shoremen rebound from a 28-23 halftime deficit to claim a 52-47 lead with 2:01 remaining in regulation.
“It was just a battle all night long,” said Stuczynski, who shot 9-of-15 from the floor and 3-of-4 from the line. “We knew Olmsted Falls was better than what their record was, so we had a feeling they were going to play us tough. Fortunately, we made the shots that mattered and we were able to come out on top.”
Falls got a mid-range jumper from Jared Kurz, who led the team with 21 points, including four 3-pointers, to cut the deficit to three. Then, Avon Lake missed a pair of front-ends of a 1-and-1 inside of the final minute, keeping it a one-possession game.
With 7.2 seconds remaining, Kurz drained a 3-pointer to tie things up at 52. Avon Lake had a chance to end the game in regulation, but Stuczynski slipped bringing the ball past half-court, and Hessell’s 30-foot heave hit the backboard and the rim at the buzzer.
Kurz buried another 3-pointer to start the first overtime, putting Falls in control. But three separate free throws – two by Brad Hamilton and one from Murway with 2:06 remaining – tied the score at 55.
“Jared’s a kid that we’re really proud of because of all the work that he’s put in between last year and this year to make himself better,” DeLisio said. “It’s not just luck that he’s the shooter that he is. He put the work in, and he’s obviously showing that hard work pays off.”
Eric Meehan, who had 10 rebounds and 16 points, sank a layup with 1:16 remaining. However, Stuczynski stuck one in from 14 feet with 52.2 seconds remaining to tie things back up at 57.
Kurz’s potential game-winning shot just inside of five seconds remaining was blocked by Stuczynski and rebounded by Logan Dilik, setting up the second OT.
“We were disappointed in our effort in the first half,” Avon Lake coach Eric Smith said. “I thought we were stagnant offensively. At times we had good ball movement. But I was really disappointed that we allowed (Olmsted Falls) to dictate how the game was going to be played. They rebounded the ball extremely well, and every loose ball, I think they got to.”
Like the first OT, it was Kurz who gave Falls the early lead with a pair of free throws with 1:37 remaining. However, Hamilton answered with a pair of free throws just 23 seconds later to knot the score at 59, setting up the final moments.
Avon Lake shot 59 percent from the floor (23-of-39), which allowed it to make that second-half charge. Dilik added nine points – all on 3-pointers – while Hamilton chipped in with eight and seven rebounds.
Steve Johnson sank three 3-pointers en route to a 9-point game for the Bulldogs (1-9, 1-4). They did outrebound Avon Lake, 37-30.
“We’ve had it rough up to this point, as far as our schedule and losing some tight games,” DeLisio said. “Hopefully, we’ll start seeing some positive results here in the second half of our season.”
The Bulldogs are off until Friday, when they travel to Berea for another SWC clash.