WEST LIBERTY – WL-S used a furious rally in the fourth quarter and overtime to defeat Triad, 64-54, in OHC boys basketball on Tuesday.
“It’s one of those games where they just make plays. They made great plays,” Triad Coach Matt McCurdy said following the loss. “Hats off to them. They compete like crazy and they’re in a position to win the conference.”
The Tigers (17-2, 12-0) took early control behind Austin Miller, who bullied the Cardinals inside and put WL-S up 17-10 after a quarter of play.
The second quarter was more of the same, until Triad rallied to tie things at 24-24. It was Triad 28-26 with time winding down when West Liberty-Salem got a tip-in off a missed basket at the buzzer to tie it again going to the locker rooms.
Triad (13-6, 7-5) came out and fought its way to an eight-point lead midway through the third quarter, but the Tigers again battled back to a 40-35 deficit.
“When they’re out there playing, I really don’t think they understand if they’re behind or ahead. They just keep attacking. They just keep playing hard,” WL-S Coach Darrin Leichty said. “There’s no panic in their eyes. Their resiliency is incredible.”
It was a back-and-forth affair in the fourth quarter, especially down the stretch. Neither team was able to build more than a one-score lead late, and the game was tied when Ryan Boyd brought the ball down the floor and held it for what was supposed to be the final shot of regulation.
Boyd used a crossover and a step-back move to free himself for a jumper that buried in the bottom of the net with just a couple of seconds left on the clock, giving Triad a 46-44 lead. The clock showed 1.6 seconds for a moment, but the officials settled on 3.4 seconds in the end.
The Tigers inbounded the ball to Kannon Stillings, who raced down the court and might have gone coast-to-coast for a tying layup if a defender hadn’t stepped up to stop the ball.
Unfortunately for Triad, that move left Miller all alone under the basket. Stillings found him with a laser pass and Miller converted a quick layup to tie the game as the buzzer sounded.
“We were just trying to regroup the kids at that point … get them to go out and compete like crazy like they had the entire game,” McCurdy said. “Our mental state going into overtime was fine. Stillings comes out and just makes big plays.”
A re-energized West Liberty-Salem squad took the floor in overtime, fueled by Stillings. And as the hosts opened up a two-score game, the Cardinals were forced to foul to extend the contest, allowing WL-S to pull away at the free throw line.
“Give Triad a lot of credit. This is a fun game for our two schools to play,” Leichty said. “They had them ready to go. They didn’t quit either.”
West Liberty-Salem won the jayvee game 48-27. Adam Schultz had 11 points and Trevor Burden had 10 for WL-S. Jevin Edley scored 11 for Triad.
The Tigers host Mechanicsburg on Friday, while Triad is on the road at Catholic Central.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.