Over the course of the last two decades, the South Webster Jeeps’ boys basketball program has been no stranger to delivering exciting finishes for Scioto County basketball fans.
But even for as many fantastic finishes as South Webster has been a part of as a program, Wednesday evening’s Division IV Sectional Final between the Jeeps and the Racine Southern Tornadoes’ boys basketball program was one that ranks among the all-time great contests in South Webster boys basketball lore.
Trailing by a 40-28 deficit as the fourth quarter began, South Webster embarked on a furious 16-4 rally that began when Shiloah Blevins hammered home a brilliantly designed alley-oop pass from Connor Scott.
But as pronounced as the start of the run was, the ending proved to be even moreso.
After a foul with 16 seconds to play gave Racine Southern a 44-43 advantage in the final seconds, Blevins — after being fouled by the Tornadoes, who had a foul to give — drove into the middle of the lane and forced the Racine Southern defense to collapse. Wisely, and as the junior has done all season long, the 6-5 junior made the right basketball play — and found Devyn Coriell wide-open in the left corner, who splashed the ensuing three-point attempt with 3.4 seconds remaining to give the Jeeps a thrilling 46-44 victory over the Tornadoes as the No. 7-seeded Jeeps, again, earned a berth to the Convo with its victory at Meigs High School in Meigs.
For Brenton Cole, the result simply came about from the never-say-die attitude that his boys employed throughout the contest.
“The boys just showed their heart and discipline tonight,” Cole said. “They really came together as a team, and just kept trying, fighting, clawing, scratching, and doing everything that they could to come out of there with a win, that’s for sure.”
After trailing consistently by a six-point margin throughout the opening half of play, turnovers continued to rear their ugly head in the third quarter of action as Racine Southern ultimately sprinted out to an 8-0 run that put the Tornadoes up by 14 — their largest lead of the second half — en route to the 40-28 third-quarter advantage.
However, knowing Southern’s gunslinging style to a tee, Cole kept emphasizing the importance of on-ball defense and ability to contest shots.
“We just told them, ‘Keep playing defense. Keep doing what we’re doing. Southern can shoot the ball, and they can shoot it well. When they’re not shooting it well, however, they can shoot their way out of a game. Let’s just keep playing defense and do what we’re doing,’” Cole said. “The boys just stayed with it, kept playing and playing, and we played to a stalemate the rest of the quarter.”
As the fourth quarter began, Cole, knowing that the Tornadoes had put together a massive comeback victory of their own, had confidence that South Webster could do the same.
“I told them, ‘When they were down in a game earlier this year, Southern scored 29 points in the fourth quarter to come back and win a game. If they can do that, there’s no reason why we can’t come back.’ And they all bought into it.”
But it certainly helped when Scott, who drew up the perfect play to swing the momentum, allowed Blevins to sky above two Racine Southern defenders for a throwdown. The aforementioned throwdown not only cut the lead to 10 points within the first possession, but also breathed needed life into the South Webster offense thanks to the alum’s heady work from the sidelines. Blevins, once more, finished with a game-high 18 points.
“Coach Scott drew it up for Shiloah, and we came out to start the fourth quarter, threw a lob behind the zone that they were playing, and he went up over two defenders and just pounded it two-handed on the alley-oop to start it off.”
On the following possession, 5-8 guard Andrew Smith followed Blevins’ dunk up by stealing a Racine Southern pass and nailing a three on the same possession to start the quarter off. The play ultimately allowed South Webster to cut the gap to a 40-33 margin — and was the trademark play in an eight-minute sequence where the Jeeps didn’t allow a single field goal defensively.
During that span, Braden Bockway proved to be huge, as well. A 6-5 forward like Blevins, the sophomore nailed a huge three to cut the Racine Southern lead to four, while Smith followed with yet another critical trey from deep to cut the lead to a single point. Bockway’s rebounding, in addition to his 10-point output, was critical in allowing South Webster to finish off possessions on both ends of the floor.
“Braden can do so many different things with his length and his shooting ability,” Cole said. “He got 10 points, he was big for us on the glass, and he altered so many shots. Having him and Shiloah in there gives us something special.”
With 16 seconds left, a foul by South Webster — who eventually tied the game — allowed Racine Southern to go back ahead. However, the Tornadoes split one of their two chances from the charity stripe, which gave South Webster a chance to win the game with either a two or a three.
After fouling Blevins, South Webster, who set up a play to get the 6-5 junior on the move, got exactly what they hoped for. When the multi-sport athlete drove the lane, it left Coriell standing wide-open in the left corner on the resulting collapse. The sophomore, who had only scored two points all game but has shown off a strong stroke from deep at all times — nailed the resulting try with 3.4 seconds left to allow the Jeeps to win the game.
“It was crazy,” Cole said. “We fouled with 16 seconds left in a tie game (43-43). Southern splits the free throws, so we’re down one. We call our final timeout to get it to halfcourt, and they had a foul to give, so they fouled Shiloah, which was smart on their end. So we ran an out-of-bounds play to get Shiloah the basketball, and when he gets it, he attacks, they collapse on him, he finds Coriell in the left corner, and boom.”
The result, however, never would’ve happened without Blevins’ ability to go for the right basketball play instead of going for a strong statline.
“Shiloah always makes the best basketball play,” Cole said. “When (Sam) Holstein had to foul with 16 seconds left, I wasn’t extremely mad because that meant that we would get the basketball back, and with the best player on the floor, that’s always a good situation for your team. He is so talented that he can create for himself, or get someone else an open look if need be.”
With the victory, South Webster officially battled through injury, sickness, and all to create an intriguing matchup with New Boston on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. in a Division IV, Athens I District Semifinal. Not only will Scioto County, once again, have at least one team in a district final, it will also have a first year high school basketball head coach — either Cox or South Webster’s Brenton Cole — coaching in it.
“We had talked about that the first time around,” Cole said. “We knew that there wouldn’t be many things better than both of us making it to the Convo and playing each other there. New Boston is a good ballclub. They gave us all we wanted, for sure, down at their place. What more you could ask for as a Scioto County basketball fan than having an SOC representative in the district finals?”
For now, however, Cole and the Jeeps are going to enjoy this win — a win that the former assistant and current head coach says “is a definite top-five” finish that he has ever seen.
“You just don’t get to be a part of a game like that very often.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT