A weekend of basketball almosts
I spent my weekend watching basketball. I covered seven games in three days.
My first game featured Rinnie Mayer willing her team to play at her level as Fairview Warriors nearly shocked top seeded Bay for the second straight season. It was an outstanding performance as Mayer showcased her talents both on the defensive end and the offensive end. But down the stretch Bay relied on its four-year starter Paris Pugliese as they found a way to pull out the win.
Olmsted Falls nearly blew the roof off Westlake's gym with their scorching start to their game against Firelands on Friday. It was raining threes early and often with junior Dave Pellerite returning from injury to drop five of those long range bombs.
And then the very next day, he was matched by Bay sophomore Lindsay Lowrie who was much more nervous about her first interview than knocking down the shots Bay didn't make last year and allowing her team to advance.
Friday night's Rocky River game had an exciting finish. I thought Max Hayes junior Derrick Dugger's three hung in the air for an eternity, but it didn't even compare to the thrilling double overtime game between Bay and Fairview. While watching those two teams leave everything on the floor was a lot of fun, it still wasn't the best game of the weekend.
If you weren't at the final moments of the Clearview Lutheran West sectional final game at Elyria, I don't know how to even begin to describe the moment.
It was almost the most famous game in Ohio high school history. Almost. Now it will be only a small footnote in history. A nightmare survived by West and a memory of courage at Clearview.
I arrived at halftime thanks to the forementioned double overtime game. I was told not to come — it would be a blowout, but I had a feeling. So surprised, but not shocked I discovered West trailed by one after beating the Clippers by a combined 75 points in two earlier games. In order to protect Richard Semrau's tender tendon, the All-State player did not start. He did play briefly in the third quarter while I was there.
West took their first lead a minute and half into the second half when senior Nick Epifano buried a three pointer as he was fouled. It is too bad Larry Bennet did not follow me to the game as he could have won an award by snapping the shot of Semrau literally carrying his wounded teammate to the bench. Epifano's replacement made the free throw and gave West a 24-23 lead.
The Longhorns then started the route with Semrau sitting for most of it. They led by 18 with 6:45 left. Semrau went to the bench and unwrapped his foot to get some needed ice.
Most of the fourth quarter was played by West bench and JV players. The game became rather boring, but someone forgot to tell Clearview to give up. The lead was down to 11 with 70 seconds left in the game. But c'mon, the West student sections had already used “The start the tractors cheer.” The game was over. yet Clearview's starters were still working hard.
A Clearview three, then a steal leading to two Clipper made free throws. Two missed Lutheran West free throws. A Clearview lay-up, another steal leading to a three pointer which made the score 51-50. Just like that. Clearview almost stole the ball again, but a foul with 19.6 seconds put West at the line.
Semrau scrambled and tried to get his shoes back on. But West missed both free throws which left Semrau at the table while Clearview took the last shot. A drive and kick out to an open man.
It looked good. So did the ensuing tip and follow. But there was no Hollywood ending, no Sportscenter moment.
I am a Lutheran West graduate, but I could not help but feel for the Clearview kids. Imagine the poundings earlier in the year. The lack of faith from school mates. No one believed in them but them. They didn't care who West had or didn't have on the floor. They never gave up. Inches away from being in every newspaper in the state of Ohio.
In fairness to Lutheran West coach Phil Argento, his job is to win the game and try to be as healthy as possible for the next one. He showed a lot of faith in his bench and they survived.
High school basketball is at its best when the Fairviews, the Clearviews and Max Hayes of the world allow their guts to overcome their minds. Sometimes the shot that doesn't fall, doesn't mean it isn't a story worth telling-- worth cherishing.
But I guarantee if you ask Rinnie Mayer, Matt Kurz, Daniel Porter or Anthony Vasquez who all saw their high school careers end on an almost-- they did not play for a moral victory-- they played to win.
And it hurts like hell when you don’t.