Elyria's Dontae Beckett and Bay's RJ Sunahara go up after the ball on Friday, Dec. 1. Steve Manheim / Chronicle
BAY VILLAGE -- Strap on your seatbelts if you’re going to follow Elyria High’s basketball team this year.
The Pioneers, coming off a Sweet 16 appearance and 21-5 record, the season with a thrilling 63-60 overtime win over Bay on Friday.
All it took to get the win was a near half-court, buzzer-beater 3-pointer from senior Deviian Williams.
If that script sounds familiar, it should. Elyria, led by six outstanding seniors, pulled out a number of games from the jaws of defeat a year ago.
“It did feel good,” Williams said of the final shot that he heaved from just inside the left side of the center circle. “I do weight lifting a lot so the ball felt kind of light to me and I just flicked it the best I could. I was happy it went in so we could get it over with.”
In truth, the game shouldn’t have come down to Williams’ heroics. Elyria had a 55-48 lead with 3:40 remaining in regulation but missed the front end of three one-and-ones and was unable to score again as the Rockets managed to tie the game and then take a 59-55 lead with 1:37 left in overtime.
Roman Carter, who Elyria coach Brett Larrick said sank 96 of 100 free throws in practice, missed a pair of front ends that could have sewed up the game in the fourth quarter. Carter came back to hit a pair in overtime to help set up the final sequence.
“It’s a brand-new group,” said Larrick, who won his 125th game to move into second d on the school’s wins list behind only the legendary Dale Reichenbach. “They’ve never played together. Totally different from last year where everybody had been together for so many years.”
Elyria looked like the inexperienced team it is, playing well at times and not so well at others, while turning the ball over 24 times.
“The best thing about this game, we have a ton to learn from,” Larrick said. “Usually, these close games, you take a loss and learn. Lucky for us, we were able to win it and still learn a ton from it about how to finish games out.”
Elyria outscored Bay 23-9 in the second quarter to lead 36-25 at halftime. But Bay clamped down on defense in the second half, holding the Pioneers to just 19 points.
“That’s all based on effort and wanting to play at that end and they did it and really did a nice job,” Bay coach Jared Shetzer of his team’s defensive effort. “Kid makes a shot, what can you do?”
“New team, we had our ups and downs throughout the game,” said senior Justin Koepp, who led Elyria with 11 rebounds and tied Williams and Carter for scoring honors with 17 points. “We had to stay strong and come as a team at the end and obviously make the smart plays, the good plays to get back possessions. We had to get a stop at the end.”
Koepp, the lone returning starter off last year’s team, hit a pair of clutch free throws with 19 seconds left in overtime to tie it and helped with a strong defensive effort on the other end that gave Williams a chance to send everyone home.
Bay, with four returning starters including leading scorer R.J. Sunahara, is expected to have a banner season. The Rockets, who made the state tournament in Division II two years ago, played without a pair of experienced players in Max Showalter and Cade Gergye, both nursing injuries. The Rockets were also coming off long playoff runs in soccer and football.
Sunahara and Koepp know each other well. The two play on the same AAU team in the summer. Sunahara finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and a handful of blocked shots. Koepp had three blocks. Erik Painter scored 18 for the Rockets.
“It’s a lesson,” Williams said. “We lost our main guys from last year. We couldn’t rely on Antonio (Blanton, Elyria’s leading scorer a year ago) for hitting the game-winner. Now that they’re gone, me and Koepp, Roman are the seniors. We’ve got to show the juniors and freshmen coming up -- play hard, don’t give up.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elyria 63, Bay 60
ELYRIA (63): MarSaun Robinson 1-2-5, Deviian Williams 7-0-17, Roman Carter 5-3-17, William Waddell 0-0-0, Justin Koepp 7-3-17, Dontae Beckett 2-0-4, Caleb Rogers 1-0-3, Josiah Grantham 0-0-0, Izaiah Thomas 0-0-0. Totals 23-8-63.
BAY (60): Erik Painter 8-1-18, Daniel Brajdic 1-2-5, R.J. Sunahara 9-1-19, Jack Maxwell 2-1-7, Christian Dupps 2-1-5, Brent Hull 1-0-3, Francis Sherman 1-1-3, Sean Heideloff 0-0-0. Totals 24-6-60.
Elyria 13 23 10 9 8 — 63
Bay 16 9 19 11 5 — 60
Three-point goals: Elyria 9-21 (Carter 4, Williams 3, Robinson, Rogers), Bay 6-19 (Maxwell 2, Painter, Brajdic, Sunahara, Hull). Field goals: Elyria 23-49 (47 percent), Bay 24-59 (41 percent). Free throws: Elyria 8-16 (50 percent), Bay 6-11 (54.5 percent). Rebounds: Elyria 38 (Koepp 11), Bay 33 (Sunahara 13). Turnovers: Elyria 24, Bay 16. Fouls: Elyria 13, Bay 18.
Junior varsity: Elyria, 67-44