KANSAS, Ohio — Two Toledo Area Athletic Conference teams put on a thrilling show in two Division IV district semifinals on Tuesday, and both advanced with dramatic victories.
Toledo Christian senior Eric Cellier nailed an 18-foot jump shot just before the buzzer to send the Eagles to an amazing 50-48 victory against New Riegel in an electric atmosphere at Lakota High School.
Ottawa Hills survived a furious charge from Old Fort and escaped with a 61-59 overtime win in the first semifinal.
Toledo Christian (22-2), the champions of the TAAC, advanced to play league foe Ottawa Hills (20-4) in the district final here on Friday.
PHOTO GALLERY: Toledo Christian beats New Reigel at the buzzer
PHOTO GALLERY: Ottawa Hills boys win in overtime
Cellier, who averages 21.3 points per game, had foul trouble early and had only scored six points before hitting nothing but net with the winner. With the game tied and 5.6 seconds left, the Eagles inbounded the ball and got it to Cellier, who dribbled behind his back to set up the shot just inside the 3-point line.
“This is crazy. It’s surreal,” Cellier said. “After it fell, I just put my hands in the air and I got tackled. To be honest it felt good right when it went off my hand. I practiced all offseason and all summer to take that shot.”
Senior Melvin Thomas filled the scoring void with a team-high 13 points for the Eagles.
Senior Brandyn Reinhart poured in 29 points for New Riegel (21-4). His inside bucket with 5.6 seconds left tied it at 48. TC coach Dave McWhinnie then called a timeout.
“It’s called the six-second play. It’s nothing too fancy, we just got the ball in his hands, and he made the play,” McWhinnie said. “You could just tell it was in. It was a great play. That is why you put in the time in the offseason. Without that who knows if that goes. He is worthy of that moment. We certainly trust him. He’s an all-state kid, and he proved it tonight.”
Cellier, who drew his third foul on a questionable charge call with 6 minutes, 2 seconds left in the second quarter, hit a jumper to give TC a 48-46 lead with 49 seconds.
The Eagles trailed 26-25 at the half. Cellier scored his first points to tie it at 32. Toledo Christian then went on a 6-2 run to take 40-36 lead. Thomas had a steal and three points in the run.
“Our kids had to fight through losing the district player of the year,” McWhinnie said. “We still stayed right there. We have depth. Melvin stepped up.”
Cellier missed most of the first half.
“I was struggling the whole game after getting into foul trouble. Coach asked me to take that shot. I took the opportunity when it came and thank God I it fell,” Cellier said.
Dominique Pittman had eight points, and Josh Winzeler had seven for TC.
In the first district semifinal, Ottawa Hills (20-4) led throughout the game until the Stockaders (20-4) rallied to take their first lead with 6:41 left.
Ottawa Hills junior Geoff Beans nailed a 3-pointer with 51 seconds left to tie it at 56, and the game went to OT.
Senior Lucas Janowicz, who scored a team-high 18 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, had a putback to give Ottawa Hills a 58-56 lead.
“You have to stay composed in these situations,” Janowicz said. “Our team pulled it together the last couple minutes and hit big shots and pulled down big rebounds. I’m not one to give up until it’s over.”
Junior RJ Coil, who finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, then had a big block.
“We played our hearts out,” Coil said. “We knew they would make a run. It’s amazing to help my team like this. I’ve never played in an atmosphere like this.”
Junior Ben Silverman hit one of two free throws with three seconds left in OT. Old Fort’s Hunter Perry, who scored 14 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, had his final shot clang off the rim at the buzzer.
“Our leaders did a great job making sure we had just enough poise,” OH coach John Lindsay said. “Tonight we made one more play than they did.
Janowicz and Beans did a nice job when we needed their leadership. RJ has really matured and he loves the big games. Today was a pretty dramatic game.”
Beans finished with 14 points and Silverman had 12.
“Ottawa Hills is a great team,” McWhinnie said. “We are looking forward to playing them a third time. It will take a team effort to win Friday.”