CLYDE — The Fliers knew exactly what was coming.
They just couldn’t stop it.
Jonah Pfeil’s runner in the lane with less than a second left lifted Vermilion to a 63-61 victory Wednesday over Sandusky Bay Conference rival Clyde.
Pfeil took a pass from Reese Miller at the top of the key and drove to the basket, hitting a heavily contested shot to give the Sailors an SBC crossover victory.
Pfeil had options. Vermilion coach Kurt Habermehl called a timeout with 13.9 seconds showing on the clock to set up the final possession. As the clock ticked down, Vermilion executed as planned.
“That was exactly how we wanted to run the play,” Habermehl said. “We wanted to put the ball in one of our two best players’ hands at the end. If it wasn’t Jonah, it was probably going to be a shot from (Mason Montgomery).
“It was a situation where we thought we had to get the ball into a certain guy’s hands. We did and they ran it perfectly for us.”
Pfeil said he saw the opening and did not hesitate.
“I had Mason in the corner to kick it out to, but I was just confident and saw the guy didn’t collapse on me,” he said. “I just put it up and, luckily, it went in. I saw the time run out and was just filled with joy.”
Clyde coach Ryan Fretz gave credit to Pfeil for the pressure-packed shot.
“We knew the ball was going to Jonah at the end,” Fretz said. “He did a great job of getting open and going to the hole. When he’s going to the hole it’s going to be good stuff for them.”
In the first half Clyde (8-6) was able to build a lead behind the inside dominance of junior Will Dowling. He scored 17 points, eight of those on putbacks of his own misses, to lead the Fliers to a 35-27 lead late in the first half.
Vermilion (13-2) ended the quarter on a 7-0 run to pull within a point at the break.
The second half was an uphill battle for the Sailors. Every time they pulled close, Clyde hit a big shot to get some breathing room. The Fliers led 48-45 at the end of the third and took a five-point lead on James Dry’s basket on the first possession of the fourth quarter.
The Sailors’ defense made the difference.
Vermilion forced turnovers on three straight possessions, converting each into a basket. Montgomery hit a 3-pointer to cut Vermilion’s deficit to 50-48, then Miller stole the ball at midcourt and scored a tying layup with 6:32 left.
Another Miller steal, off a deflection by Sterling Benko, led to a pair of Pfeil free throws that gave Vermilion a lead.
Clyde fought back, eventually tying the game at 61 on a Derick Harrah jumper.
This set up Pfeil’s winner.
“I thought Sterling Benko was a huge key to that,” Habermehl said of the defensive surge. “He’s not a big-time scorer, but the energy he brought late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter was fantastic. We kind of went small there early in the fourth quarter and I thought it really benefited us.
“Reese Miller was guarding a kid probably 60 pounds heavier than him and I thought he did a really good job in the post of making him work. I’m super-proud of the kids. I couldn’t have asked for more from them tonight.”
Dowling was shut out in the second half.
“We went smaller on him, which helped,” Habermehl said. “As soon as he put the ball on the floor we clamped down on him. He had a great first half and we couldn’t keep him off the boards. I thought we did a much better job of boxing out in the second half.”
Montgomery led the Sailors with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Pfeil added 15 and Seth Hurd 13.
Harrah paced the Fliers with 18 points and added six rebounds.
“It was awesome,” Montgomery said. “The atmosphere was great and both teams came out from the rip.
“From the tip-off we were ready to go. It was high-tempo. They play like us, we play like them. High tempo, get after it, pressure … it was an awesome game.”
Vermilion 63, Clyde 61
VERMILION (63): Jonah Pfeil 5-2-13, Seth Hurd 6-0-13, Mason Montgomery 7-4-20, Luke Pena 0-0-0, Reese Miller 3-3-10, Zach Kovach 2-0-4, Ryan Habermehl 0-0-0, Sterling Benko 1-0-3. Totals 24-9-63.
CLYDE (61): Cameron Ferrar 3-0-9, Brock Newsome 1-0-3, Will Dowling 8-1-17, James Dry 4-0-9, Derick Harrah 7-2-18, Ryan Lozier 1-0-2, Jack Morrison 0-0-0, Gabe Dowling 1-1-3. Totals 25-4-61.
Vermilion 19 15 11 18 — 63
Clyde 21 14 13 13 — 61
Three-point goals: Vermilion 6-21 (Montgomery 2, Pfeil, Hurd, Miller, Benko), Clyde 7-23 (Ferrar 3, Harrah 2, Newsome, Dry). Field goals: Vermilion 24-60 (40 percent), Clyde 25-56 (44.6 percent). Free throws: Vermilion 9-12 (75 percent), Clyde 4-6 (66.7 percent). Rebounds: Vermilion 34 (Montgomery 12), Clyde 35 (W. Dowling 8). Turnovers: Vermilion 5, Clyde 10. Total fouls: Vermilion 7, Clyde 11.
Junior varsity: Clyde, 59-35.