VERMILION — Clearview had a lot of things going against it, but never flinched.
The Clippers turned up the defense in the second half, and when Vermilion senior Seth Hurd’s jumper rattled out with under a second left, falling into the arms of Clearview guard Joe Norris, the Clippers had sealed a shocking 59-57 comeback win on Senior Night at Vermilion High School.
“You’ve got to love these kids,” Clearview coach John Szalay said. “That’s a great team over there with a great coach and they played their hearts out … but our kids just never gave up.”
Clearview played without starting center Jaylen Paschel, who was suspended for two games after being ejected from Friday’s game against Fairview. The Sailors (17-5) jumped on the Clippers (15-6) early, and when Davis McDaniel’s jumper from the left baseline fell through the net Vermilion enjoyed a 24-6 lead in the opening moments of the second quarter.
With just seven healthy bodies dressed, Szalay changed up things. He went to a 2-3 zone for most of the second quarter as Clearview cut into the lead.
The Sailors led 36-24 at halftime, but the Clippers showed signs of life by ending the half on a 6-2 run.
“We never think we’re going to lose, no matter what the score is,” Clearview sophomore guard Jamir Billings said. “No matter how far we’re down we’re always going to keep fighting.”
To open the second half, Szalay turned his Clippers loose.
“I went zone a little bit because of fatigue and because we are down in numbers, but at halftime we told them to go and play the way we play,” he said. “We pressed them, got a couple of steals and hung in there. Everybody contributed.”
With 4:34 left in the third quarter a Jonah Pfeil bucket gave Vermilion a 43-31 lead. Clearview outscored the Sailors 11-3 the rest of the quarter and trailed just 46-42 heading into the final period.
“We couldn’t get stops,” Vermilion coach Kurt Habermehl said. “We got up by 16 and, all the sudden, we couldn’t stop many people. Offensively I thought we stopped trusting each other. We had guys who were open for better shots and I thought we tried to force too many things.
“We weren’t being selfish, we were just trying to do too much.”
The Clippers hung around, and finally took their first lead, 55-54, with 1:15 left on a Billings layup.
Mason Montgomery put Vermilion back on top with a post move in the paint, but with 32 seconds left Javon Todd put Clearview back in front, 57-56, with a lefty layup.
With 12.7 seconds left Montgomery tied the game when he split a pair of free throws, setting up Jordan Reed’s winner.
Billings dribbled the length of the floor, ran off a Todd pick at midcourt and found Reed by himself under the basket.
“We said, ‘If he makes the free throw, let’s just go.’ We made a great pass,” Szalay said. “We left a little time on the clock, but luckily they had to take a difficult shot. We wanted to get them on their heels and get after them.”
Billings said he almost didn’t get the pass to its target.
“Javon made a good screen and I saw Jordan Reed,” he said. “He went backdoor and I saw he was open. I tried to throw it to him, but it slipped. I was able to just flip it to him and he was able to get the bucket.”
Todd scored a game-high 23 points. Billings added 19 points and seven steals.
“This feels good,” Todd said. “We lost to Sandusky and had low energy, then lost to Fairview for the PAC championship. We needed this one. We couldn’t have a third straight loss. We have to keep our minds straight and our energy up.”
Montgomery led Vermilion with 20 points while Pfeil added 15.
The Sailors have lost three of their last four.
“We’ve got 10 days to figure it out,” Habermehl said. “It hasn’t been a good stretch for us over the last 2½ weeks. We’ve got to get back on the court and try to reinvent ourselves a little bit.”
Szalay thinks the win will help his team as it moves forward.
“Tonight I just wanted to see if we could give a good effort,” he said. “To get a victory, they’re going to feel real good. We’ve got Brooklyn Friday and Padua in our tournament game at home Tuesday, so this had to help our morale.”
Clearview 59, Vermilion 57
CLEARVIEW (59): Chase Christensen 1-0-2, Javon Todd 8-5-23, Dylan Rebman 1-2-5, Jamir Billings 8-3-19, CJ Fleming 2-0-5, Joe Norris 0-0-0, Jordan Reed 2-1-5. Totals 22-11-59.
VERMILION (57): Jonah Pfeil 4-6-15, Seth Hurd 2-0-5, Mason Montgomery 9-1-20, Luke Pena 0-0-0, Reese Miller 3-0-9, Sterling Benko 0-0-0, Ryan Habermehl 0-0-0, Davis McDaniel 2-0-5, Kameron Caskey 0-0-0, Mark Morris 1-0-3. Totals 21-7-57.
Clearview 6 18 18 17 — 59
Vermilion 22 14 10 11 — 57
Three-point goals: Clearview 4-17 (Todd 2, Rebman, Fleming), Vermilion 8-23 (Miller 3, Pfeil, Hurd, Montgomery, McDaniel, Morris). Field goals: Clearview 22-53 (41.5 percent), Vermilion 21-54 (38.8 percent). Free throws: Clearview 11-13 (84.6 percent), Vermilion 7-11 (63.6 percent). Rebounds: Clearview 33 (Billings 8), Vermilion 30 (Montgomery 5, Pena 5, Pfeil 5). Turnovers: Clearview 12, Vermilion 14. Total fouls: Clearview 11, Vermilion 14.
Junior varsity: Vermilion, 64-50.