The end wasn’t nearly as easy as the beginning, but Anthony Wayne fought off a furious fourth-quarter rally by visiting Perrysburg and held on for a 54-48 boys basketball victory Tuesday night that gave the Generals at least a share of their first Northern Lakes League championship since 1998.
“I’m an extremely proud coach,” said second-year AW coach Bryan Borcherdt. “For the first time in 15 years we’re league champs, and nobody can take that away from us.
“These kids have worked extremely hard the past two years. We hung together tonight when it got tough, and some guys made plays for us down the stretch, which was key. It was a total team effort tonight.”
Stemming the tide of a Yellow Jackets comeback — one that had whittled a 13-point lead early in the final quarter down to 43-41 midway in that period — was Generals senior forward Ose Omofoma, who scored seven of his team-high 16 points during a pivotal span of 71 seconds to keep AW (16-3, 10-2 NLL) up 50-43 with 1 minute, 41 seconds remaining.
“It was really Matt [Fox] and Hunter [Debo], our guards, who set me up,” Omofoma said of his key buckets. “They made great passes. All I had to do was cut to the basket and finish at the rim. And Mark [Donnal] always draws a big crowd, and that makes it easy.”
When the Yellow Jackets made one last surge to stay in the league title hunt, using a putback bucket from Matt Mesker and a 3-pointer from Sahne Edwards to get within 50-48 with 45 seconds to play, junior guard Matt Fox came to the rescue at the foul line.
Fox, who scored 14 points, calmly sank both ends of his double-bonus chances with 33.9 seconds and 9.8 seconds remaining for the final margin.
From an all-around standpoint, AW was paced by 6-foot-9, Michigan-bound center Mark Donnal, who contributed 13 points, 13 rebounds, and six blocked shots.
“We fought hard to get to this point, and we weren’t going to let up,” Donnal said. “We hit some key shots down the stretch. Ose had an and-one there, and that gave us a lot of momentum. Then we hit a few free throws at the end that kept us on top.”
The loss kept Perrysburg (11-7, 7-5) out of the title chase, but Bowling Green (11-9, 8-4) stayed alive in its bid for a championship share by edging Napoleon 70-68 on Tuesday night.
The Generals can claim an outright title if BG loses either of its remaining league games, or simply by winning either of their own remaining NLL games — Friday versus Springfield or Feb. 22 at Maumee.
“It’s great to be a part of Anthony Wayne history,” Donnal said. “Not many teams here have done this, and we’ve worked really hard to get to this point.”
Early on, it appeared that Anthony Wayne would waltz to its title share.
With Fox hitting two 3-pointers and Hunter Debo (nine points) adding another 3-pointer, the red-hot Generals hit eight of their 11 first-quarter shots to take a 19-4 lead after one quarter.
“Obviously that was real big,” Borcherdt said of the fast start. “We knew we weren’t going to blow Perrysburg out. They’re too good of a ballclub. We knew they’d make runs, and that we’d have to weather runs.”
A Donnal free throw to start the second quarter gave AW its biggest lead at 20-4 before the Yellow Jackets finally regrouped.
Perrysburg, which was led in scoring by Edwards (18 points) and Chris Schimmoeller (10 points), got within 25-15 by halftime and trimmed the deficit to eight on two occasions early in the third quarter. Perrysburg entered the fourth down 39-28.
When Donnal hit two free throws with 6:41 remaining, AW looked to be in the driver’s seat up 43-30. But Perrysburg, using pressure defense that ultimately created 15 AW turnovers, embarked on an 11-0 run to make it 43-41 on Mesker’s basket with 4 minutes left.
“We just told them at halftime that it was anybody’s game,” Perrysburg coach Dave Boyce said of his team’s bouncing back. “We thought if we could cut it to five or six, it was going to be anybody’s game.
“It didn’t happen right away in the third quarter, but we truly believed it was going to happen. Once we got there, the kids believed it too.”
Added Omofoma said of the Jackets’ rally: “That didn’t surprise me at all. Perrysburg’s a great team. When they execute well, their offense is really hard to guard. But we have great chemistry as a team, and we finished the ballgame.”
Anthony Wayne shot 18 of 39 (46 percent) from the field, 15 of 18 from the line, and edged the Jackets 32-30 in rebounding. Perrysburg was 17 of 57 (29 percent) from the field and 9 of 10 at the line.
Nick Moschetti added nine points for the Yellow Jackets.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.