FOSTORIA - Little brother came up big.
Gibsonburg sophomore Jordan Kirwen hit a critical 3-pointer with 57 seconds remaining to give his team a four-point lead, ultimately propelling them to a 55-52 victory over Liberty-Benton last night in the Division III boys district basketball final at Fostoria High School.
Kirwen's shot was impressive. So were the circumstances surrounding it. Kirwen received the ball at the left wing from none other than his older brother, Nathan.
Nathan, a senior, had a solid look from the top of the key but had no intentions of hoisting a shot after seeing Jordan standing alone at the corner.
"I know he can hit those shots, but to do it in this type of game is gutsy," Nathan said. "I'm proud of him as a sophomore."
With a supportive brother, Jordan had plenty of confidence to take such a pressure shot.
"You can't think," he said. "The seniors have told me to shoot all year."
Gibsonburg advances to the regional tournament for just the third time in school history and first since 1998.
The Golden Bears used a balanced attack, led by Derek Wasserman's 14 points - all of which came in the second half. Brent Ernsthausen added 13 and Nathan Kirwen had 12. Liberty-Benton was paced by Nathan Hyde's 29 points, which were nearly enough to lead the Eagles to victory.
Hyde, the Blanchard Valley Conference player of the year, was 4-for-5 from 3-point range and 9-of-21 overall.
"Nathan Hyde was doing what All-Ohio players do," Liskai said.
He hit an unbalanced 3-pointer with five seconds to go for his 21st point of the second half, but it couldn't make up for mistakes the team made on its two prior trips down the floor.
Hyde was called for traveling with 28 seconds and the Eagles down four. Following a pair of free throws by Jordan Kirwen, Liberty-Benton turned the ball over at midcourt and Wasserman followed by making both attempts from the line to extend the Golden Bears' lead to 54-46.
The Eagles didn't score a field goal for the final 2:30 until Hyde hit the meaningless 3 at the end.
"It seemed like Gibsonburg had a hop in their step tonight and we were a step slower," said Liberty-Benton coach Steve Williman.