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Fletcher's buzzer-beater propels Rockets to victory

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Toledo's Tre'shaun Fletcher, shown in a game against Oakland this season, hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to lift the Rockets to an 89-86 win Wednesday in Detroit.

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DETROIT – Before Tre’Shaun Fletcher sank the game-winning 3-pointer to beat Detroit Mercy on Wednesday night at Calihan Hall, he sank to the floor with his head in his hands.

In the ultimate form of redemption, in a matter of a few seconds of game time, Fletcher made up for a mental mistake that could have forced the game to overtime and instead he sent the Rockets home 89-86 winners for their first road win of the season.

With Toledo leading 85-84, junior Nate Navigato stepped to the line for two free throws with 12 seconds left. Navigato calmly made the first, before Detroit Mercy coach Bacari Alexander called a timeout. Navigato missed the next free throw and Toledo held onto an 86-84 lead.

With the clock winding down, Fletcher had a mental lapse, thinking Toledo was up by three, and fouled the Titans’ Josh McFolley near midcourt with two seconds left. McFolley knocked down both free throws tying the game at 86.

Toledo had the ball underneath the Detroit Mercy basket and Navigato ran the baseline from left to right before tossing the ball three quarters of the court to Fletcher just behind the 3-point line on the right side of the court. Fletcher turned and sank the game-winner as the buzzer sounded.

“Navigato is probably our best free-throw shooter,” Fletcher said. “He’s one of the best free-throw shooters in the country. I was like, there is no way Navi misses this free throw. I wasn’t even paying attention to the free throw. Then he missed and I fouled him on the way back down, and I looked at the scoreboard and realized we were just up two and they got two free throws. Then Navi made a great pass down the stretch and I just caught it and got it out of my hands, and I got my prayers answered and it went down.”

UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said his team is normally a fouling team up three points in late-game situations.

“Navigato is at the free throw line and they call timeout and he’s got one shot left,” Kowalczyk said. “We’re going to foul at half court, but we also know if he misses it, it’s a two-point game. Tre’Shaun was so good in the first half, but he just wasn’t himself in the second half. But he redeemed himself in a big way.”

Kowalczyk said he drew up the play for Fletcher and he wasn’t surprised the senior came through.

“I’m not surprised [he made it],” Kowalcyzk said. “I love coaching the guy. I love him and his family. I felt awful for him when he made that foul. He’s such a heady player and that is just not like him. He made up for it and I think some Rocket fans would recognize that play from a home game a couple years ago against Buffalo.”

Jaelan Sanford led the Rockets (5-3) with 23 points. Fletcher added 16 points, Luke Knapke scored 15, Marreon Jackson netted 14, and Navigato had 10.

McFolley paced Detroit Mercy (4-5) with 24 points, while Corey Allen and Kameron Chatman added 17 points each.

Toledo clamped down on the defensive end for a large portion of the second half and led by 13 points with 5:42 left in the game. Detroit Mercy started a furious rally that was capped when McFolley hit a 3-pointer and made a free throw for a 4-point play with 50 seconds left that trimmed Toledo’s lead to 83-82.

“They started hitting some tough shots, so give them credit,” Sanford said. “They are a great team. But we stayed together and we got it done.”

Navigato made a running, left-handed layup to give the Rockets an 85-82 lead with 25 seconds left. McFolley answered with a layup of his own to cut the lead to 85-84 at the 17-second mark, setting up the wild final sequence.

“It feels good to get this first road win,” Fletcher said. “We had them up 13 and we have to play better down the stretch. That starts with me. I made a couple bad plays obviously and I missed some free throws. The shot was all fine and dandy, but me being the only senior on the team, I have to play better down the stretch. It won’t happen again. That’s for sure.”

Contact Brian Buckey at bbuckey@theblade.com419-724-6110, or on Twitter @BrianBuckey.

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