PORTSMOUTH — At first, in overtime on Friday night at Notre Dame High School, it appeared that Dylan Seison was about to steal the show.
But, just in the nick of time, leave it to New Boston’s Kyle Sexton to grab the spotlight at the very last second.
That’s because Sexton, with a miraculous running layup to beat the buzzer, sank the host Titans’ tremendous upset bid —and more importantly for the Tigers secured at least a share of the Southern Ohio Conference Division I championship.
In a physical and feisty basketball game that indeed had it all, for better or worse both on the court and in the stands, Sexton’s score captured a dramatic 61-60 come-from-behind overtime victory for New Boston —its 26th consecutive in the SOC I.
New Boston, for the weekend at least and by the most razor-thin of margins —protected its top-three ranking in the Division IV Associated Press statewide poll, where the Tigers stood atop for the past three weeks.
The Tigers are now 17-1, and a perfect 11-0 in the SOC I, but this was by far their most Titanic challenge yet —pun intended.
Sexton, the reigning (Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association) Division IV Southeast District Player of the Year and as he often does, saved the night.
First, after the Tigers trailed by as much as 45-34 and with only six minutes and 53 seconds remaining, Sexton sent the contest to overtime tied at 51-51 on a basket with 16 seconds to play.
Then, in the overtime session, Sexton scored eight points and matched Seison step-for-step and point-for-point —right up until Seison split a pair of free throws for a 60-59 Notre Dame advantage and only 28 seconds remaining.
The Tigers tried two more times over the next 24-and-a-half seconds to take the lead, with Sexton shooting once and rebounding once —with Tanner Voiers vice versa on Sexton’s miss and rebound.
Voiers then missed inside of 6.6 seconds, and the Titans controlled the rebound —but incredibly turned the ball over in the backcourt on an outlet pass going out of bounds.
So with 3.5 seconds left, and the Tigers taking the ball out along the sideline, the senior Sexton set himself up for the biggest basket of his young life.
Grady Jackson inbounded the ball, as Sexton swung deep into the backcourt with the Titans face-guarding him— while Jackson found Voiers in the corner.
Sexton sprinted ahead of his defender down the lane and caught the pass in stride from Voiers, and charged high and hard at the rim to drop the lay-in off the glass — and at the horn.
The bucket counted, the Tigers mobbed Sexton in the corner, and New Boston coach Adam Cox couldn’t contain his excitement in a celebratory downfloor dash.
“There was 3.5 left and I had just scored the last few buckets, so I wanted the ball. They face-guarded me so tight so I couldn’t get it, but I saw Tanner catch it on the baseline. So I jabbed and just did a back-cut to the open lane,” said Sexton. “I knew I had to make a play.”
That Sexton did, much to Cox’s delight.
“We were able to get possession after their turnover, threw it into Tanner, Kyle back-cut and laid it in at the buzzer,” said the coach. “It’s just something where those two look for each other and know to trust each other. Kyle really stepped up and carried us in overtime and in the fourth quarter. That’s probably why he is in state Player of the Year in Division IV conversation, and he definitely made a claim for it tonight.”
Sexton poured in a game-high 22 points on nine field goals and 4-of-8 free throws, as all but one basket and a freebie occurred after halftime.
But he saved his best for last, and his game-winner overtook top-point honors from Notre Dame’s Jonathan Strickland and Seison.
It also stole victory from the jaws of defeat and left the Titans totally shell-shocked, as Notre Dame dipped to 9-6 —and 5-4 in the SOC I.
In the two teams’ first meeting on Dec. 30 in New Boston, the Tigers torched the Titans to the tune of a 75-51 count.
Notre Dame coach Matt Mader spoke of Friday’s final 6.6 seconds — from Voiers’ close miss to Sexton’s improbable make.
“I thought we did a nice job of guarding and forcing them into a tough shot (by Voiers). We did exactly what we needed to do and rebounded the miss, but in that situation, we have to hang on to the ball. With three seconds left, we’re going to get fouled. We looked to outlet, but we weren’t ready for the outlet pass,” said Mader. “We give them an opportunity at the end, they get the ball to the corner, and Sexton makes a good back-cut that we sold out on and weren’t there. He finishes at the rim for the win.”
The Titans, truth be told, were devastated by body language alone —having surrendered the 45-34 fourth-quarter advantage.
Notre Dame dropped in 20 third-period points, including four three-point goals —two of which were from Strickland.
Strickland scored 21 points on four deuces, three treys and 4-of-5 foul shots —as Seison tallied 20, including half of those in the fourth quarter and overtime.
In the extra session, Seison scored field goals for leads of 53-51 and 55-53, and a pair of foul shots for a 57-55 edge —before his split made it 60-59.
Sexton scored the tying baskets at 53-53 and 57-57, and free throws for the 59-59 deadlock —sandwiched around Voiers meshing a pair for the 55-55 tie.
Then, of course, there is the game-winner —which was the end result of one of the Titans’ 23 turnovers, including 15 from halftime on.
“They are a good team and they turned the pressure up on us. When they did, we didn’t handle the basketball well,” said Mader.
The Tigers also made more free throws (21) than the Titans even attempted (18), and those seven Notre Dame misses ended up being costly.
In a one-point overtime outcome, every possession — and every point — ends up mattering.
“I am proud of our kids for battling and super-proud of their effort. There’s a lot of upset kids in there (locker-room) that put their heart and soul into tonight’s game. They battled their tails off against one of the best teams in the state, and that last play is not how we lost the game. We had opportunities and missed free throws, turned the ball over down the stretch and gave up some offensive rebounds late that we didn’t in the first half. Those are things, to beat good teams, we have to execute. We did all except the last 6.6 seconds,” said Mader. “I thought this was the best team effort we’ve had all year as far as sharing the basketball, looking for the open man and trusting each other, but we just didn’t finish the game out the right way.”
Not only did the Tigers take over in the fourth quarter by winning it 17-10, but they did so short-handed.
Chase Clark, who canned three first-half trifectas and a third-quarter two towards 11 points, suffered an ankle injury at the 6:53 mark and did not return.
Voiers, who tallied 10 points including a second-quarter field goal, drained a perfect 8-of-8 from the stripe —including his 1,000th career point on a foul shot with 25 seconds to play in the third.
He made a pair of charity tosses apiece over the final four cantos.
But Voiers struggled shooting from the field, and brother Brady Voiers fouled out in the fourth quarter —further limiting the Tigers’ bench.
There was also a stoppage in play in which some New Boston fans were ejected from the gymnasium.
After all that, though, the Tigers — with Sexton saving the night by seizing the last-second spotlight —still prevailed.
“Just the resiliency of these guys tonight and how much they continue to battle and fight. Notre Dame played a heckuva game, shot the ball extremely well, played exceptionally well, and gave us a definite run for our money. I think it was good for us and good for them, and neither team deserved to lose. Both teams left it out on the floor,” said Cox. “It was just awesome to be a part of. We were just fortunate to have some senior leadership at the end to carry us through.”
Cox continued that it indeed was an unbelievable ending — in order to clinch a second straight SOC I championship.
“It was an emotional game and I am just glad that our team was able to fight through and get the win,” he said. “It shows the will for a team like ours to face adversity and be in a situation we’ve never been in before, and be able to retaliate, come back and get a great win. It shows how good our seniors are and I am proud to have them.”
New Boston 8 15 11 17 10 — 61
Notre Dame 10 11 20 10 9— 60
NEW BOSTON 61 (17-1, 11-0 SOC I)
DeVon Jones 1 1-3 4, Grady Jackson 2 5-8 9, Tanner Voiers 1 8-8 10, Kage Truitt 0 0-0 0, Kyle Sexton 9 4-8 22, Chase Clark 4 0-0 11, Brady Voiers 1 3-4 5; TOTALS 18 21-31 61; Three-point field goals: 4 (Chase Clark 3, DeVon Jones 1)
NOTRE DAME 60 (9-6, 5-4 SOC I)
Carter Campbell 1 0-2 2, Jermaine Powell 1 0-0 3, Caleb Nichols 2 3-5 8, Jackson Clark 0 0-0 0, Dylan Seison 7 4-6 20, Jonathan Strickland 7 4-5 21, Ethan Kammer 2 0-0 6; TOTALS 20 11-18 60; Three-point field goals: 9 (Jonathan Strickland 3, Dylan Seison and Ethan Kammer 2 apiece, Jermaine Powell and Caleb Nichols 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved