A bounce into the hands of a Fairfield player just before time expired allowed the Lions to gain a 62-61 win over Green.
In the nightcap, the ball bounced into the hands of Cam Thoroughman over and over again as Clay held on for a 60-57 win against Western Pike Tuesday night at Valley in a Division IV sectional semifinal.
Clay built a 12-point lead midway through the third quarter, but key fouls and turnovers allowed the Indians to hang around long enough to give the Panthers a scare.
Leading 46-34, the Panthers were poised to break the game open when Western Pike's Michael White drew a foul and made both free throws. After White's shots, the Clay bench was called for a technical and White went back to the line. The technical started a seven-point swing in the final minute with White scoring all seven.
The Indians built on that momentum in the fourth and got within three on their final shot by Zack Kier with 3.4 seconds remaining.
The key to the Panthers holding on for the win was their offensive execution. Clay ran its offense like it had planned to all season. Thoroughman led the team in scoring, handled the ball, made key assists and stole a couple inbound passes - the rest of the team came through in the clutch.
Thoroughman finished with 18 points, 17 rebounds and several steals as the Panthers advanced. Feeding off the energy of their go-to player, other Panthers stepped up. Derrick Webb scored 12 points and Kent Robinson added 14.
“We're a different team when he's playing,” said Clay coach Randy Ward. “He is our lead assist guy and he sees the floor so well. He's not 100 percent yet, he is playing about 85 percent.”
While playing at percent,” Thoroughman shot 43 percent from the field and went 1-for-4 from the free throw line. With his free throws not falling and his shooting percentage down, Ward said several other Panthers were key.
“Robinson had a big night and we got key buckets from Webb, (Ryan) Cucore and Eric Keaton did well off the bench,” Ward added.
As has been the case all season long, Western Pike was led by Jeremy McCleod and White. McCleod scored 16 points and White scored 18 points with 10 boards. White scored six of his points in the fourth as the Indians charged.
Western Pike trailed by four at the half and would never get the lead back in the second half because of what Indian coach Phil Howard called “terrible shooting.”
“We knew it was going to be tough coming in,” said Howard. “I was a little relieved to only be down four at the half. We're pretty explosive and I kept telling the kids ‘Don't give up.'”
The Indians finish at 17-4 and ends what was, to many, a surprise season. Western Pike finished second in the SOC I this year with only two seniors on the roster.
“To be completely honest I was hoping we would go .500,” said Howard. “We won seven games in overtime ... take those away and you're .500.”
Clay's win gets the Panthers above .500 for the first time since Jan. 31. More importantly, the Panthers move on to face the winner of tonight's Whiteoak-Manchester game.
“We'll just go back to practice and do some scouting,” said a smiling Ward. “That's all we can do.”
In the early game, Green did everything right for 31 minutes and 58 seconds.
The Bobcats held the Lions to 44-percent shooting and were outrebounded by only five in the game.
As time wound down, however, Green gave up one offensive board to many. The Bobcats trailed by one after a 3 by Andrew McKay. Green responded by putting the ball in the hands of their leader Derrick Lewis and the senior guard didn't disappoint, scoring to give Green the lead at 61-60 Green with 7.1 seconds to play.
On Fairfield's ensuing possession, the Lions drove down court quickly and gave the ball to Tyler Priest. Priest dominated the paint all game scoring 18 points along with 17 rebounds but missed with only seconds left. The ball bounced off the rim into the hands of McKay for the putback as time expired.
“Basically we like to think our strength is our defense,” said Green coach Kevin Lewis. “We just didn't get a stop when we needed a stop.”
Derek Lewis led the Bobcats in scoring with 20 points and just behind him was senior Brian Ramey. Ramey scored 17 and brought down 11 rebounds. Senior John Dawson had a strong night with six rebounds and six points.
The Bobcats trailed by 11 at the half before rallying. Lewis scored 12 of his 20 in the second half and Nathan Patten added his entire 10 points, solely in the third quarter.
“In the second half we started to attack the basket,” said coach Lewis. “That gets the person attacking the basket involved and it gets others involved.”
Green finishes the season 12-9 and Fairfield advances to the next round where they will play the winner of Saturday's South Webster-East game.
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at 353-3101 ext. 242 or email@example.com
Fairfield 15 13 20 14 - 62
Green 13 6 29 13 - 61
Fairfield - Shoemaker 4 0 9, McKay 4 0 9, Hannenkrat 1 0 2, S. Priest 5 1 13, T. Priest 9 0 18, Link 0 1 1, Smith 3 4 10. Totals 26 6 62.
Green - Lewis 6 5 20, Bowen 1 0 2, Patten 3 1 10, Ramey 8 0 17, Kelley 3 0 6. Totals 25 6 61.
3-pointers - Fairfield 4 (Shoemaker, McKay, S. Priest 2); Green 7 (Lewis 3, Patten 3, Ramey)
Record - Green 12-9
Clay 13 19 14 14 - 60
Western Pike 9 19 13 16 - 57
Clay - Thoroughman 7 1 18, Thacker 1 1 4, Webb 4 4 12, Robinson 5 0 14, Cucore 2 0 4, Stroud 1 0 2, Keaton 3 0 6. Totals 23 6 60.
Western Pike - McCleod 5 5 16, Kier 1 0 2, White 4 7 18, Pavlovic 5 0 13, Smithson 3 0 8. Totals 13 12 57.
3-pointers - Clay 9 (Thoroughman 3, Thacker, Robinson 4); Western Pike 8 (McCleod, White 2, Pavlovic 3, Smithson 2)
Records -Clay 11-10; Western Pike 17-4