HAMLER - A hotly contested boys basketball game between Wauseon and Patrick Henry last night was decided by the way a ball rolled on a rim.
Wauseon's final shot rolled in, while Patrick Henry's did not, and that allowed the Indians to escape with a 47-45 road victory.
Wauseon junior Chris Villalovos took that final shot, connecting on a foul-line jumper with just 3.5 seconds left to play as Wauseon improved to 12-5 overall and 6-2 in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League.
"I just started dribbling because I figured there wasn't very much time left," said Villalovos, who finished with 14 points. "I saw it open in the middle, so I pulled up and shot it. Luckily, I made it."
Then the Patriots' Ajay Meyer, who led his team with 13 points, saw a 3-point shot from the left wing roll around, then out. That roll denied Patrick Henry a win that would have given the Patriots an undefeated league season; instead PH fell to 13-4 overall but still claimed the NWOAL title with a 7-1 mark.
"We just wanted to get up and contest [the Meyer shot], because you can't block it," Wauseon coach Ken Burgei said. "I thought our kids did a great job of defending what they wanted to do.
"[Meyer's shot] looked good from where I was sitting, though. It scared me to death."
It was a thrilling ending to a game filled with runs. Patrick Henry made six of its first eight shots from the floor to build a 13-5 lead after one quarter, but Wauseon used a 15-6 finish to the second period to carry a 22-21 lead into the half.
The problem for the Patriot offense was turnovers, as PH committed 12 in the first half alone.
"We just didn't take care of the basketball," Patrick Henry coach Dave Krauss said. "Part of that was Wauseon's defense, and part of that was that we were just trying to create too much with nothing. We had some turnovers we shouldn't have had."
Meanwhile the Indians used 6-6 sophomore pivot Elliott Mealer, who led all scorers with 15 points, to create an inside-outside offense.
"They certainly got out of the gates against us, but our kids didn't fold," Burgei said. "I thought we got a little bit better tempo, and we wanted to see what we could do about getting Mealer the ball.
"He's a very unselfish player, and we got some good shots and some good looks from inside-outside play."
In the first three minutes of the third quarter Patrick Henry scored seven unanswered points to retake the lead, then went more than 11 minutes without a field goal. That allowed Wauseon to come back, and the game eventually was tied at 45-45 with 35.2 seconds remaining.
"[On our final play] we wanted to try to isolate Chris on the wing, but they kept Ray [Martinez] from getting the ball, so we couldn't run that," Burgei said. "So we got it in Chris' hand, and he made a big play - and a big shot.
"[Chris] has a really soft touch, and I've seen him roll a lot of them in. I was hoping it would go in."
After two timeouts, a baseball pass downcourt and a third timeout, Meyer took the shot that came tantalizingly close to winning the game for the
"I thought their shot was pretty well defended," Krauss said. "We had a hand in his face, and the kid made a tough shot. Then we decided to go for the win, and we got a good shot. It just didn't go in."
Villalovos said handing Patrick Henry its only league loss said a lot about his team.
"It shows the character of our team: playing as hard as we can when people said we have nothing to play for," he said. "It shows what could have been in the league, and I think it will carry us in the tournament."
Krauss said he thinks the game will help his team in the tournament as well.
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