With 16 seconds to play, Chagrin Falls 6-foot-3 junior Corey Tull stepped to the foul line to try and give his Tigers a two-possession lead.
What many call freebies in the sport of basketball, Tull’s attempts from the stripe were worth a heck of a lot more than some loose change during Friday night’s Chagrin Valley Conference rivalry at Kenston.
Zoning out the packed house was half the battle. It was just a good thing Tull was shooting in front of The Zoo rather than the host Kenston Krazies at the other end of the floor.
“I’m not always the best free-throw shooter,” Tull said. “So I’m just glad I could come up big for my team in this game and hit some clutch ones down the stretch.”
Moments earlier, Tull cleaned the glass off a missed Kenston free throw before getting hacked in the bonus. When he stepped to the line, he sank his first shot for a 42-38 lead. It was his fifth make of the quarter in just as many tries.
His second attempt, however, hit off the rim and took wild ride to the right.
“That play was kind of big,” Chagrin head coach Dave Bargar said about what was about to ensue.
“We talked yesterday, when we finished our practice, and we told these guys, ‘Listen, there’s going to be a time in the game when there’s an opportunity to make the game-winning play,'” the coach said. “‘It could be in the first quarter. It could be in the fourth quarter. But when it does happen, be prepared.’ And that was the time in the game when Sawyer was prepared.”
Off the miss, Chagrin 6-foot-3 senior Sawyer McGuire – the Tigers’ leading rebounder – worked his magic.
“I knew not to foul and be smart, because they were in the bonus too,” McGuire said. “But I knew I had to make a play on the ball. So I saw it hit off the right side of the rim, and I just crashed right away, got it, and then when I was falling out of bounds, I saw Karyo come out wide open.”
In the fast lane to the rim, 6-foot-5 senior Jack Karyo collected the save from McGuire and laid it in for a six-point lead – the largest spread of the evening.
The Zoo went wild.
“The atmosphere was crazy. I just looked him right in the face,” McGuire said about his adrenaline-pumped victory stare with Karyo, “and then I got right back on D and hustled back.”
With that bucket, Karyo finished with a game-high 14 points and five assists, as Chagrin tucked the Bombers in for the night, 44-38.
“That was probably one of the best plays I’ve seen this year,” Karyo said. “Once the shot went it, I just knew it. I knew that was it. We did it. It just means so much to get this win. I mean, I can’t even tell you. We’ve been playing these guys since little kids travel basketball, and this is the last time we’re ever going to play them. And it’s just amazing.”
With the triumph, Chagrin improved to 9-3, including a 4-2 mark in the CVC, while Kenston dropped to 10-4 with a 5-2 conference mark.
While the fourth quarter of Friday’s contest featured an 18-15 scoring spree in the Tigers’ favor – including Chagrin’s 10-of-13 performance from the line – the first three quarters had single-digit efforts with Chagrin’s three-fold zone defense not giving an inch. Had there been a shot clock, the Bombers would have been in deep over their heads.
The only thing that seemed to be working for Kenston was Jay Weemhoff’s drive-and-dish plays in the fourth – he had three assists in less than two minutes – but the senior fouled out with 1:40 to play.
“This game was a big defensive battle,” Tull said. “They definitely tested our zone. They would move the ball around real nice, and we just had to stay determined and stay patient and disciplined. We had to keep our heads in every possession to work to get stops.”
Off the bench, Tull finished with 11 points, including seven in the fourth quarter, as well as a pair of boards and steals, an assist and a block.
Senior point guard Patrick Donley was third in the scoring department with five points for the Tigers, complemented by four assists and three steals.
Chagrin’s go-to scorers – McGuire and fellow senior guard Nate Diedrich – were held scoreless in the first half, before finishing with four points apiece.
“Well, as you know, everyone says it’s a team sport,” Karyo said about taking over on the inside. “If our guards are getting denied, the rest of us have to step it up. We did that tonight.”
And while Chagrin had 16 of its 18 turnovers in the first three quarters – compared to Kenston’s seven – the Tigers were shooting themselves in the foot, as the Bombers’ full-court press never came out of their back pocket.
As a team, Kenston had just five steals.
“We didn’t make as bad of turnovers this time,” McGuire said, referring to a 52-45 loss to Kenston on Dec. 13.
“If we turned it over, it was out of bounds or a travel,” he said about Friday’s game. “It wasn’t a steal for them or anything. And so they didn’t get as many transition points. And then we just really got after it on D, and they struggled with the zone. So it was all hustle tonight.”
On Tuesday, the Tigers went on to beat CVC foe Aurora, 68-66.
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