ELYRIA — Brody Kuhl wasn’t sure if it was the best shot of his life but he’ll take it.
It was Kuhl who banked in an off-balance 3-pointer to give Keystone one of the biggest wins in program history, 48-47 over Elyria on Saturday night.
It’s the first time the Wildcats have beaten the Pioneers in eight tries.
“I knew there were only 2.8 seconds on the clock,” said Kuhl, who led the Wildcats with 20 points.
“The bottom line, I’ve been in that situation before. Clearview, my sophomore year — they were both buzzer-beaters. Definitely top two (best shots).”
With such little time to work and down 46-44, the Wildcats (7-4) inbounded the ball in the front court and got the ball to their most-reliable scorer. Kuhl was fouled as he launched his desperation shot that hit high off the backboard but nestled through the nets.
At first, no one was sure if it was a 3-pointer or not as the Keystone bench erupted and ran onto the floor.
The fact Elyria didn’t foul earlier on the play was critical. The Pioneers had fouls to give but didn’t follow coach Brett Larrick’s instructions.
The officials ruled the shot was a 3-pointer and awarded Kuhl a free throw. However, they also gave Keystone a technical foul for running onto the floor before time had expired.
Kuhl made the free throw with .7 showing on the clock for a 48-46 lead.
Elyria’s Roman Carter then went to the foul line with a chance to tie the game but missed the first technical before making the second. The Pioneers’ inbound pass at midcourt went to freshman MarSaun Robinson but his near half-court heave bounded off the rim, giving Keystone a well-deserved victory.
Elyria fell to 6-5 with four losses in its last five games.
“We had some careless possessions,” Larrick said. “We’ve preached jump-stop for two weeks. We get in there and travel. We passed the ball late to guys. They made better adjustments than we did and when you let teams hang around — we had a lead but couldn’t extend it and let them make plays.”
There were many reasons the Wildcats managed to upset the Pioneers. They scrapped and clawed for every rebound and 50-50 ball, outrebounding Elyria 27-23 and turning the ball over just once in the final quarter to rally from a 37-32 deficit.
“Those are all the things we’ve been horrible at,” Keystone coach Jeff Holzhauer said. “It’s all the things I wrote on the board. We’ve been struggling.”
Not Saturday. Keystone played sound defense, limiting Elyria’s inside chances, and it kept the pace of the game to its liking.
“Give Jeff’s kids credit,” Larrick said. “They made some nice adjustments. We couldn’t speed the tempo up the third and fourth quarter. We were like stuck in mud. We couldn’t create tempo at either end.”
Jeremy Gerhardinger battled inside for the ’Cats, grabbing five rebounds and scoring 11 points. Kuhl and Mason Strader combined for 10 rebounds. The Mealwitz twins — Kevin and Matt — combined for nine points, while Drake Rodick and Ethan Sokolowski did a solid job handling Elyria’s pressure defense.
“And we’ve been struggling defensively,” Holzhauer said. “Over the years, that’s something we’ve been able to hang our hat on to allow us to stay in games against really good programs like Elyria. That just hasn’t been our group this year. They got it (Saturday). They did it.
“Hopefully, this kind of jump-starts us. We like coming over here and playing Elyria. We love the gym, love Brett. I love the fact that he allows us to come over here and play this great rivalry. I give a lot of credit to Elyria for making this game happen.”
Still, Elyria had a chance to avoid Kuhl’s last-second heroics. The Pioneers had a 25-15 lead in the second quarter and led by 37-28 in the third only to watch the Wildcats climb back in the game.
Deviian Williams’ drive-in layup gave Elyria a 46-44 lead with 5.4 seconds remaining. Both teams called a timeout and Keystone had to inbound the ball three times — the last with just 2.8 remaining.
The Pioneers played the final four minutes-plus without Justin Koepp, their leading scorer and rebounder, who had to leave the game with a bloody nose. Koepp scored 10 points and had seven rebounds. Robinson finished with 11 points but all of them came in the first half. Carter scored 10 and Josiah Grantham pulled down a half-dozen rebounds.
ALUMNI TRIBUTE: It was an emotional start to Saturday’s game. Elyria held its annual alumni night, saluting past players in attendance. It also had a moment of silence and passed out roses to the family of Kayden Williams, the Keystone junior who was killed recently in an automobile accident. Williams’ family has a close connection to both schools.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keystone 48, Elyria 47
KEYSTONE (48): Drake Rodick 2-0-4, Ethan Sokolowski 2-0-4, Brody Kuhl 5-8-20, Kevin Mealwitz 1-0-3, Jeremy Gerhardinger 5-1-11, Matt Mealwitz 3-0-6, Mason Strader 0-0-0. Totals 18-9-48.
ELYRIA (47): MarSaun Robinson 4-0-11, Deviian Williams 4-0-8, Roman Carter 3-1-10, Will Waddell 2-1-5, Justin Koepp 4-2-10, Caleb Rogers 0-0-0, Josiah Grantham 1-0-3, Josh Ball 0-0-0. Totals 18-4-47.
Keystone 10 9 13 16 — 48
Elyria 8 17 12 10 — 47
Three-point goals: Keystone 3-16 (Kuhl 2, K. Mealwitz); Elyria 7-17 (Robinson 3, Carter 3, Grantham). Field goals: Keystone 18-46 (39 percent), Elyria 18-42 (43 percent). Free throws: Keystone 9-11 (82 percent), Elyria 4-9 (44 percent). Rebounds: Keystone 27 (Kuhl 6), Elyria 23 (Koepp 7). Turnovers: Keystone 12, Elyria 13. Fouls: Keystone 12, Elyria 8. Technical foul: Koepp, Keystone bench.
Junior varsity: Elyria, 41-33