MEDINA — Incredible.
It’s the only way to describe Elyria’s thrilling, last-second 77-76 win over previously unbeaten Medina on Tuesday night in Greater Cleveland Conference play.
Antonio Blanton, who by his own admission was having an ‘off’ night, took an inbounds pass with 4.3 seconds left from well beyond the 3-point arc and swished it to give the Pioneers the win. Elyria had trailed by as many as 15 points late in the third quarter before outscoring Medina 29-15 in the fourth.
“I was struggling all night,” Blanton said. “Coach (Brett Larrick) and my teammates were all telling me to keep shooting. I was surprised I was that wide open. No matter how far it was, I just had confidence I would hit it.”
Josh Lotko, a 6-foot-5 senior, kept the Pioneers in the game to that point. He hit 15 of 21 shots and all four of his free throws. It was his three-point play that tied the game at 74 with just under 45 seconds to go.
“Just staying aggressive, never getting discouraged,” Lotko said of his career-high 35 points. “They’re going to make shots. They’re a good team. We just had to keep playing through that.”
The Pioneers press started paying dividends but they still trailed 74-66 with only 1:23 to play. Elyria’s senior leadership rose to the occasion.
“We missed a couple layups,” Medina coach Chris Hassinger said. “You get in that pressure situation, which we haven’t been in a lot, you kind of panic and tighten up. I think we had four mental mistakes coming out of huddles. We didn’t listen, didn’t execute. They increased the pressure and if you aren’t detail oriented, they’ll make you pay.”
Darquan Woods scored on a breakaway dunk and Blanton hit a 3-pointer with 52 seconds left. Another turnover followed and that’s where Lotko scored and was fouled, but Samuel McKee drove in for a layup with 32 seconds left to put Medina back in front.
Michael Oliver, one of the catalysts on defense, tried to lob a pass inside to Lotko but Ben Geshke stole it and was fouled. Geshke, the best free throw shooter for the Bees, missed the front end of a one-and-one to set up the final sequence.
Elyria called time with 6.5 seconds left and got the ball to Blanton in traffic but he was fouled. The Pioneers were not yet in the bonus and it left 4.3 remaining. This time, Blanton rolled off a screen and was wide open for the long 3-pointer. It went through as the clock expired.
“We were supposed to switch that last screen and we just didn’t do it,” Hassinger said. “Couple mental miscues and you pay so deeply against a good team like (Elyria).”
Including last Friday’s win over Mentor, it’s the first time Elyria has had back-to-back wins over unbeaten teams this deep in the season since the 1964 Cinderella team knocked out Brookside and Rhodes during the Baldwin Wallace “AA” district tournament.
On Tuesday, Elyria was down and seemingly out at 61-46 with a minute left in the third quarter after a 10-0 run from the Bees. Justin Koepp closed the quarter with a short jumper.
“It’s just the tough kids that we have,” Larrick said. “We kept fighting. We kept yelling at them to just keep playing, keep fighting. We turned it over too much and gave them too many points in transition. We kept telling them, ‘Get some hands on some balls and things will happen.’ At the end, I’ll tell you what, we tried to save timeouts. We executed some things and at the end, it was kind of a half and half of two sets in a row.”
Medina’s Jackson Sartain, as he’s been all year, was on fire from 3-point range. He led the way with 24 points, but 17 came in the first half. He was 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the second quarter. Geshke scored 12 points and Luke Schaefer and McKee each scored 10.
After Lotko, Blanton had 16, Koepp nine, Oliver eight and Dez Brown seven. Brown tweaked his ankle late in the game but his status is unknown for Friday’s matchup against Solon.
Elyria (7-2, 4-1) is now a half game behind Mentor and Medina (10-1, 5-1) in the conference race.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elyria 77, Medina 76
ELYRIA (77): Dez Brown 3-0-7, Tone Brown 0-0-0, Antonio Blanton 6-1-16, Josh Lotko 15-4-35, Justin Koepp 4-0-9, Michael Oliver 3-1-8, Darquan Woods 1-0-2, Dontae Beckett 0-0-0, Deviian Williams 0-0-0. Totals 32-6-76.
MEDINA (76): Ben Geshke 5-1-12, Jackson Sartain 9-0-24, Colin Szumski 3-2-8, Luke Schaefer 5-0-10, Tyler Kaminski 1-0-3, Dylan Fultz 0-2-2, Jimmy Daw 2-1-7, Samuel McKee 3-4-10, Kyle Szumski 0-0-0. Totals 28-10-76.
Elyria 22 15 13 29 — 77
Medina 15 28 18 15 — 76
Three-point goals: Elyria 7-13 (Blanton 3, Oliver, D.Brown, Lotko, Koepp), Medina 10-21 (Sartain 6, Daw 2, Geshke, Kaminski). Field goals: Elyria 32-60 (53 percent), Medina 28-53 (53 percent). Free throws: Elyria 6-7 (86 percent), Medina 10-12 (83 percent). Rebounds: Elyria 27 (Lotko 6), Medina 29 (Sartain 8). Turnovers: Elyria 9, Medina 13. Fouls: Elyria 9, Medina 8. Fouled out: None.
Junior varsity: Medina, 69-60.