EUCLID — After completing the regular season with an 18-4 record, there are no moral victories for Open Door.
In fact on Tuesday, there were no victories at all as the Patriots lost a heartbreaker to Euclid, 67-65, in a non-league game.
What there was for Open Door was a statement. A statement that resounded loud and clear: If the Patriots can go on the road and have an opportunity to win at the buzzer against a Division I team that is among the best in the area, everyone in the Division IV tournament better watch out.
Senior Trey Brooks led Open Door with 20 points and gave the Patriots their first lead of the night when he hit two free throws with 1:54 left to make it 64-62.
Miles Hunt, who finished with 15 points, made a free throw with 42.7 seconds left to give the Patriots a three-point lead. The lead was short-lived when the Panthers tied it on a Reginald Priah three-point play with 29 seconds. Euclid regained the lead on a driving layup from junior Garvin Clarke with 3.9 seconds left.
After a pair of timeouts, Open Door had a chance to win when senior Carter Wright leaned into a 28-footer as the buzzer sounded. His shot hit the side of the rim and bounced away, taking with it the Patriots’ chance at pulling off a monumental upset.
“We feel like we’re too good for moral victories,” Brooks said. “We feel like we earned respect tonight by coming out and competing against one of the most well-regarded teams in the Cleveland area.”
Euclid (14-7) led by as many as 12 points in the second quarter and took a 10-point lead, 53-43, when Clarke converted a three-point play with 51 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Each time it looked as though the Panthers would pull away, Open Door battled back.
The Patriots started the fourth quarter on a 10-4 run, cutting the deficit to 57-55 on a Jared Bublinec 3-pointer with 3:43 left. Bublinec finished with 19 points, 16 coming in the second half.
“We proved tonight we can play with a great opponent. Euclid is a great team, very athletic. They were a difficult test for us,” Bublinec said.
Allowing offensive rebounds and the second-chance points that follow, nearly spelled doom for Open Door in the first half.
Euclid took a 13-11 lead with 3:30 remaining in the opening quarter on a Clarke layup. The game was briefly halted to celebrate Clarke’s 1,000th career point. From the time the game was resumed to midway through the second quarter, the Panthers scored 12 of their 17 points on offensive putbacks.
“We started boxing out in the second half, that made a big difference,” Open Door coach Todd Wright said. “I had no doubt in my mind we would respond the way we did tonight. Even being down nine in the fourth quarter against a great, great Euclid team, I knew that wasn’t going to stop us because of the kind of team we are.
“I’m so proud of the toughness and the mental toughness these guys showed tonight. It showed the mindset these young men have. I have no doubt we’ll be ready March 1 (when the Division IV tournament begins).”
Tuesday’s game was only Euclid’s fourth game against a non-Division I team and five of the Panthers’ losses have come against teams seeded first in their respective Division I or Division II district tournaments.
“Playing a game like this is going to have us ready for the tournament,” Brooks said. “Playing against big dudes, strong dudes, on the road in a pressure-filled environment, we know there’s going to be close games like this that can only help us.”
Euclid 67, Open Door 65
OPEN DOOR (65): Trey Brooks 7-2-20, Miles Hunt 5-3-15, Carter Wright 3-0-8, Mason Wiley 1-0-3, Jared Bublinec 7-2-19. Totals 23-7-65.
EUCLID (67): Mario Lacy 9-0-18, Garvin Clarke 8-1-17, Reginald Watts 1-0-3, Octavious Hardy 3-4-10, Ke’Suan Key 2-2-7, Reginald Priah 3-1-7, Latrayal Alexander 2-0-5. Totals 28-8-67.
Open Door 16 15 14 20 — 65
Euclid 21 19 13 14 — 67
Three-point goals: Open Door (Brooks 4, Bublinec 3, Hunt 2, Wright 2, Wiley), Euclid (Alexander, Watts, Key). Field goals: Open Door 23-54 (43 percent), Euclid 28-68 (41 percent). Free throws: Open Door 7-8 (88 percent), Euclid 8-13 (62 percent). Rebounds: Open Door 32, Euclid 43. Turnovers: Open Door 16, Euclid 12. Total fouls: Open Door 13, Euclid 11.