BEAVER — After scoring seven straight points to send Friday’s game into the first of three overtimes, after playing 44 consecutive minutes with a sinus infection — he never left the court — and after hitting a game-winning buzzer beater, Eastern’s Evan Leist still has time to bake cookies for Santa.
With teammates Michael Miller and Cody Weaver sitting on the bench after fouling out late in the game, the Eagles looked to Leist to deliver a win with less than 10 seconds left in triple OT.
With ball in hand, Leist split a double team and missed his first attempt. But after grabbing his own rebound, with less than two seconds remaining, his putback attempt kissed the glass and fell through the cylinder as time expired — giving Eastern a 64-62 win over New Boston.
Christmas came early in Beaver.
“We were down big in the fourth quarter and I knew we had to get back in the game so I was going to try to do all I could to get in the lane and score,” Leist said. “If they came over and helped [on the final play], I was going to kick it out. I just wanted to win. That’s all I was worried about. The adrenaline kicked in and I finished the game … luckily got that last second putback.”
But it was much more than luck.
It was grit. It was an unmatched will to win. It was all-out, exhaustive effort.
All of the above allowed the final sequence to take place.
“Evan’s a tough kid and he’s a well-conditioned athlete. We never took him off the floor in a triple overtime game,” Eastern coach Tom Barrick said. “He was spent but he wouldn’t have accepted not being on the floor. He showed toughness through a full game and three overtimes.”
As did Barrick’s entire roster.
To make a long story short, the Eagles (6-1, 5-0 SOC I) absorbed New Boston’s best punch, got up, and swung right back.
“In the SOC I, you have to win at home and this was a huge win for us,” Barrick said. “New Boston had an outstanding game plan. But we lacked energy for three and a half quarters. Our will to win just took over there in the last four minutes of the game. We really struggled for three quarters. But I can’t say enough about our kids. Toughness down the stretch, not giving in … for us to win, I can’t say enough positive things about our kids. Tremendous grind.”
Battle on the glass … goes to Sexton
While the Eagles won the game, they struggled to win the rebounding battle … thanks to New Boston’s Kyle Sexton.
Sexton was his usual self, causing trouble in the paint and claiming the offensive glass as his own. By the end of the night, the sophomore had brought down 26 rebounds.
“We knew [Sexton] was outstanding in the paint and on the glass,” Barrick said. “I thought there were moments where he just wanted the ball more than we did. His effort to go get the ball was outstanding. It’ll be a great matchup when we go there. But you have to give that young man credit. He played outstanding. I’m just happy we were able to come out with the win.”
Tale of the tape
Early and often, Sexton and teammate Tyler Caldwell paced the Tigers’ offensive game plan. The duo combined to score New Boston’s first 10 points, paving the way to a 16-8 lead after the first eight minutes. That eight-point lead had shrunk to six by halftime at 24-18.
After the break, the Eagles immediately caused two consecutive turnovers and got a stop on the defensive end. That led to a 6-0 run, forcing a 24-24 tie and New Boston coach Adam Cox to call a timeout.
His team responded well.
Trailing 26-25, the Tigers (5-3, 4-1 SOC I) mounted a 10-2 run to seize a 35-28 edge before entering the assumed final eight minutes up 39-32.
But that’s when things got hairy.
After Grady Jackson scored to put New Boston ahead 46-33, the Eagles went on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit back to single digits at 46-41. Jackson then scored again, to make it 48-41, and made way for Mr. Evan Leist to make his mark.
Leist proceeded to score seven straight points, tying the game at 48 and sending the game into the first four-minute overtime period — where each team scored just two points before heading into double overtime tied at 50.
In double overtime, it was New Boston’s turn to claw its way back into things. The Eagles took a 56-51 lead before Jackson hit a 3 with 1:33 to go, followed by a bank shot from Caldwell at 1:00. After each team traded free throws and buckets, the game headed to a third overtime, 58-58.
That opened another door for Mr. Leist to put on his cape and become the night’s hero.
“Coming in, we knew this was a huge game, basically between first and second place in the SOC,” Leist said. “They got up on us and we just had to grind it out the whole game. Everybody was tired. Their star players were fouling out, our star players were fouling out. We just had to be tough and finish it out.”
Leist led all scorers with 30 points while Miller had 12 points and six rebounds. Weaver ended the night with seven points and eight rebounds, Hunter Cochenour had seven points, seven rebounds and three assists, and Parker Clemmons added seven points and eight boards.
For the Tigers, Sexton added team-highs of 17 points and five assists to his 26 rebounds while Caldwell also ended the night with 17 alongside nine boards. Jackson tallied 11 points, Marcus Saunders ended with nine, and Jerome McKinley added eight to his team’s total.
What’s on tap
The Eagles get back to action on Dec. 28, playing in the Pike County Holiday Classic against Waverly while New Boston attempts to bounce back on Jan. 4, hosting Notre Dame.
One thing is for sure: Eastern now has a leg up in the SOC I title race.
“I think this win will be even bigger as we play out the rest of the season,” Barrick said. “This win could be a huge factor as we look down the road. It’s huge. No question about it.”
I have no words for this final sequence. Just absolutely wow.
— Derrick Webb (@dw1509) December 22, 2018
Glenwood: 16-8-15-9 (2-8-4) — 62
Eastern: 8-10-14-12 (2-8-6) — 64
Glenwood: 23-54 FG, 11-16 FT, 5-13 3pt. (Saunders 2), 46 rebounds (Sexton 26), 23 turnovers, 9 assists (Sexton 5). Scoring: Sexton 17, Caldwell 17, Jackson 11, Saunders 9, McKinley 8.
Eastern: 26-56 FG, 10-22 FT, 3-17 3pt. (Leist 3), 36 rebounds (Weaver 8, Clemmons 8), 9 turnovers, 8 assists (Cochenour 3). Scoring: Leist 30, Miller 12, Weaver 7, Cochenour 7, Clemmons 6, Mattox 2.
Reach Derrick Webb at (740) 353-3101, ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @dw1509.