AMHERST — Garrett Klekota tried to play the hero, but Avon Lake had an answer every time.
Klekota scored a game-high 29 points and sent the game into overtime with a heavily guarded 3-pointer that bounced high off the rim, off the glass and through the net.
The Shoremen hit their free throws down the stretch, however, and claimed their first Southwestern Conference win of the season, 72-69 in overtime.
“We were 2-6 coming into this game, but I don’t think we’re a 2-6 basketball team,” Avon Lake coach Eric Smith said. “That’s the way we have to play … with that type of effort. We’ve been up and down all year long and this was our best, most consistent effort for an entire game.”
Christian Jones scored 23 points while Seth Muck added 19 points and 11 rebounds as the Shoremen were able to wipe out an 11-point Amherst lead early in the second half. The Comets led 48-37 with 2:50 remaining in the third quarter, and held a 57-52 lead midway through the fourth when Avon Lake went to work.
Jones hit a 3-pointer from the left wing. After the Comets (4-6, 0-4 SWC) gave the Shoremen four shots on one trip, Jones hit another three to put Avon Lake (3-6, 1-3 SWC) ahead 58-57, its first lead since 16-10 in the first quarter.
Jones was able to extend the Shoremen lead to 62-59 with a pair of free throws with 37.2 remaining in the fourth.
Klekota was not done. He drove past Muck and scored high off the glass with his left hand with 16.2 seconds left. Amherst fouled Jason Hessel with 13.8 remaining, and the senior guard calmly hit both free throws to give the Shoremen a 64-61 lead.
Amherst put the game in Klekota’s hands. The 5-9 senior dribbled across the floor to the right wing and picked up his dribble. An Avon Lake defender knocked the ball out of his hands but Klekota was able to grab it, dribble once and shoot with three Shoremen draped all over him to force overtime.
“They didn’t hang their heads at all,” Smith said of how his team reacted to Klekota’s shot. “Our attitude was, ‘Hey, we get to play four more minutes.’ It was fun and that was the way we like to play.”
In the overtime, the Comets took a 67-64 lead on an Adam Srnis 3-pointer, but Muck answered with a three of his own. The Comets took a 69-67 lead when Klekota found Rees Rua all alone under the basket, but Hessel scored on a putback and was fouled — Klekota’s fifth — to give the Shoremen a 70-69 lead with the free throw.
Antonio Serrano’s jumper was off and Jones grabbed the rebound. He was immediately fouled and hit both free throws to account for the Shoremen’s winning margin.
Avon Lake hit 17 of 19 free throws in the game.
The Comets turned the ball over 18 times and allowed Avon Lake 19 offensive rebounds.
“We just didn’t make enough winning plays,” Amherst coach John Srnis said. “We didn’t get stops, we didn’t get rebounds, didn’t take care of the ball and weren’t strong with it. I thought it got really physical and we stopped making winning plays.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avon Lake 72, Amherst 69
AVON LAKE (72): Quinn Cantleberry 0-1-1, Christian Jones 6-9-23, Jace Russell 1-0-3, Seth Muck 7-2-19, Matt Molina 3-0-6, Jason Hessel 3-3-9, Ben Oxley 0-0-0, Luke Harris 3-0-6, A.J. Outcalt 2-0-5, Max Siepel 0-0-0. Totals 25-15-72.
AMHERST (69): Adam Srnis 6-1-17, Garrett Klekota 10-5-29, Rees Rua 6-1-13, Antonio Serrano 0-1-1, Anthony Eliopoulos 0-1-1, Danny Fortney 3-0-8, Shane Derricotte 0-0-0, Casey McConhie 0-0-0. Totals 25-9-69.
Avon Lake 16 12 19 17 8 — 72
Amherst 16 19 17 12 5 — 69
Three-point goals: Avon Lake 7-19 (Muck 3, Jones 2, Russell, Outcalt), Amherst 10-22 (Srnis 4, Klekota 4, Fortney 2). Field goals: Avon Lake 25-52 (48 percent), Amherst 25-47 (53.1 percent). Free throws: Avon Lake 15-17 (88.2 percent), Amherst 9-16 (56.2 percent). Rebounds: Avon Lake 37 (Muck 11), Amherst 27 (Fortney 5, Klekota 5). Turnovers: Avon Lake 15, Amherst 18. Total fouls: Avon Lake 15, Amherst 16. Fouled out: Klekota.
Junior varsity: Amherst, 47-42