Ottawa Hills’ RJ Coil drives against Cardinal Stritch's Austin Pratt on Friday. Coil was one of three Green Bears to score in double didgits, putting in 19 to win the TAAC showdown.
For most of the game, Cardinal Stritch had first-place Ottawa Hills on the ropes on its own home court in Toledo Area Athletic Conference boys basketball Friday night.
But, behind the dominant inside play of 6-foot-9 R.J. Coil, 6-7 Ellis Cummings, and 6-7 Geoff Beans — all seniors — the host Green Bears outscored the upset-minded Cardinals 19-4 over the game’s final 5:22 to emerge with a 49-41 victory.
Coil worked the low post for 19 points and 11 rebounds, Cummings ruled the offensive boards for 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Beans tallied nine of his 13 points in the final 3:37 to lift the Bears to 9-1 overall and 6-0 in the TAAC.
PHOTO GALLERY: More pictures from this game
“At that moment, I just think it was the guys holding their composure,” Ottawa Hills coach John Lindsay said of his team’s late comeback. “They didn’t panic. They executed, got some stops defensively, and were able to get it inside to our big guys.
“When a team plays a zone and packs it in, and you’re not hitting shots, it’s going to be a rough night. Tonight was a rough night for us. But our seniors had great composure.”
Coil had seven fourth-quarter points and Cummings added six on a pair of three-point plays for Ottawa Hills, which was ranked No. 10 in the latest Division IV state poll.
“We weren’t hitting shots in the first half and they were,” Coil said. “We Just had to keep our confidence and keep pounding it inside, because that’s what we did not do in the first half.
“Our guys lobbed it into me up high where I like it, and I just went to work.
Stritch is a good team and Austin Adams is a great guy. They’re athletic and they gave us a good test, but we prevailed.”
Stritch (5-6, 4-2) seemed like it had the inside track to forging a first-place tie with the Green Bears until the crucial stretch run.
The Cardinals, who were led by 12 points from Brooks Gasser and 10 from the TAAC’s leading scorer, Austin Adams, grabbed the game’s early momentum.
Stritch did that with hot 3-point shooting and effective zone defense, which was packed tightly around the lane, daring Ottawa Hills to ignore its superior height and shoot from the perimeter.
Stritch hit five of its nine 3-point attempts, the Green Bears missed all eight of theirs, and halftime came with the Cards on top 23-16.
With Coil finally establishing some inside presence in the third quarter, Ottawa Hills trimmed the deficit to 31-27 entering the fourth.
Stritch got two free throws from Karl Zacharias, and a bucket from Austin Pratt to open the final quarter, and the Cards showed no signs of wilting.
Stritch pushed its lead to 37-30 on a 16-footer from Gasser with 5:34 to play before the wheels began to come off, and Ottawa Hills responded with a 10-0 run.
Ottawa Hills' Geoff Beans, right, denies Cardinal Stritch’s Jacob Empie. Beans finished with 13 points in the Green Bears’ win.
Beans three-point play with 3:37 left gave Ottawa Hills its first lead of the night at 38-37, and Coil followed by hitting both ends of a bonus chance at the line at the 3:00 mark.
Stritch never regained the lead, and the Green Bears, who were 9-for-9 at the line in the fourth quarter, iced things by sinking five in the last 1:55.
“For 27 minutes we ran what we were supposed to run, and we were still up by five,” Stritch coach Dave Rieker said. “Then we started taking quick shots.
“We ran our offense the whole night, and we said it was either a layup or a setup [down the stretch]. We played phenomenal for 27 minutes and got out of character for five, and that was enough to cost us. I don’t want to say we wore down.
"We broke down.”
Ottawa Hills was 18-of-37 (49 percent) from the field, 11-of-15 (73 percent) at the line, and edged Stritch 26-22 in rebounding. The Cardinals, who missed all nine of their 3-point tries after halftime, finished 17-of-46 (37 percent) from the field, and were 2-for-2 at the line.
“Stritch did an excellent job, especially in that first half,” Lindsay said. “They were very poised and took care of the basketball. They had some good looks and they knocked them down.”