BOWLING GREEN - Von Graffin waited years to become a head coach before Bowling Green came calling last year.
Now Bowling Green's long pursuit of a Northern Lakes League championship is also over following the Bobcats' 60-54 victory over Northview last night before a near-capacity crowd in the Bobcats' gym.
The Bobcats, who made 20 of 21 free throws, outscored the Wildcats 8-1 during the final two minutes to pull out the win that gave Bowling Green a share of the NLL title with Perrysburg.
Eric Radabaugh, who paced the Bobcats with 23 points, scored eight in the final period. Radabaugh was 4-for-4 from the line in the fourth quarter when the Bobcats nailed 11 of 11 foul shots.
“It's amazing,” said Radabaugh, a junior, while looking on as his teammates cut down the nets in celebration of the school's first NLL championship. “We'll be able to tell our kids and grandkids about this. It's the greatest feeling in the world.”
Bowling Green finishes the regular season 15-5 overall and 12-2 in the NLL. It was a sweeping turnaround from the prior season when the Bobcats won only three games.
If there ever were a coach and a program meant for each other it has to be Graffin and Bowling Green. In Graffin's first season the Bobcats did something they hadn't accomplished since joining the NLL in 1978.
“Every week all season we were picked as the underdogs, but we kept getting it done, somehow, someway,” Graffin said. “But it's always been all about team.”
Jimmy Green came through with 12 points playing most of the night in place of Andrew Vroman, who had been out sick earlier in the week. Chris Hanna, who sat out most of the game in foul trouble, scored five of his nine points in the fourth quarter when Bowling Green outscored Northview 21-11. Justin Rex scored four of his eight points in the final quarter.
Hanna, who sat out most of the first half after picking up three offensive fouls, played well down the stretch.
“I wasn't on the floor that much, so the time that I was on the floor I tried to make the most of those minutes and contribute to the win,” Hanna said.
Northview coach Dennis Shoemaker credited the Bobcats for a complete team effort. Northview had its hands on the momentum for most of the contest. The Wildcats led 21-19 at the half and 43-39 after three quarters following a 50-foot shot by Adam Hirschfeld that swished to end the third quarter.
However, the Wildcats never found a way to finish off the Bobcats.
“They're a very good basketball team,” said Shoemaker, emphasizing the word team. “You try to shut someone down and someone else steps up.”
Nevertheless, Shoemaker thought the Wildcats (9-11, 8-6) had their chances to win.
“The game came down to free throws,” Shoemaker said. “We were 13-of-20 from the foul line. We missed seven free throws and we got beat by six points.
“We had our opportunities. We weren't disciplined enough and I'll take some of that blame.”
Hirschfeld carried the Wildcats with 24 points. Matt Harsh added nine.