LIBERTY CENTER – In their first game without senior point guard Robbie Gilsdorf who tore ligaments in his foot in practice on Tuesday and is out for the remainder of the season, Swanton experienced some highs and lows in their 68-65 win at Liberty Center on Friday.
While it seemed as if the Bulldogs could do no wrong in the early going by taking a 19-3 lead 8:20 into the game, Liberty Center scored 28 points in the fourth quarter to send the contest to overtime.
“They just got hot in the second half,” said Swanton mentor Matt Smith. “Every three they put up I felt like it was going in. And it’s not like we were standing around with our hands in our pockets, some of those were contested shots where they were making some unbelievable plays. And we didn’t shoot free throws in the second half very good either.”
Swanton got a bucket from Duyane Goings at the 7:18 mark of the fourth period, but the Bulldogs could manage only one more point over the next 3:26. The Tigers responded as Joel Studer pegged four points, Zack Carpenter added a bucket, Blake Graber one of two free throws, and Justin Saneholtz and Brooks Hinton added threes to cut the Bulldog lead to 48-41 with 3:40 to go.
Mark Lair broke Swanton’s drought from the field with a basket on a drive, then Oakes added a line drive jumper around a jump shot for Hinton to increase their lead to nine. A pair of free throws for Studer and a three by Graber 16 seconds later made it 52-48 with 2:14 to go.
Bryce McComb then hit a floater in the lane to extend Swanton’s lead to six with under two to play.
Both Studer and Devin Jones of Swanton knocked down a pair of free throws, then Hinton’s triple with 1:06 left got the Tigers within 56-53 at the 1:06 mark.
“We knew he could shoot a little bit, but not to that level,” said Smith of Hinton, who hit five triples for the game. “He got hot and boy he let it rip. We were on our toes for a little bit.”
Following a Liberty Center timeout, Swanton was fouled but missed the front-end of a 1-and-1. The Tigers cashed in as Saneholtz buried a three from the corner, tying the score at 56 with 32 ticks left.
Both teams missed on their ensuing possessions, giving Swanton the last shot with roughly four seconds remaining. The ball made its way into the hands of Lair but his three attempt came up short to send the game into overtime.
The Dogs went on a 9-2 run to open the extra session. Zach Dziengelewski began the rally with a basket inside, then Oakes added five points and Jones a bucket on a hard drive to the hoop around two for Hinton as Swanton led 65-58 with 1:27 remaining.
However, after Jones fouled out by grabbing Graber who split a pair from the line, Hinton also tacked on a three to make it 65-62 with 17 seconds to go. Hinton then hit another three with five seconds left after Oakes split a pair from the line, but McComb’s two freebies and a Bulldog steal on a Liberty Center inbound with the clock winding down sealed it.
“I am very proud to get out of here (with a win),” said Smith. “We finished the season – we haven’t lost in 2016. Once we had been beaten by Archbold (on Dec. 17), we were down on ourselves. We said let’s finish out the year right. Hey, 12 games later we have 19 wins which is one of the highest totals in school history.”
McComb, who will be taking over the role of point guard with Gilsdorf’s injury, opened the game with a three and Lair tacked on another for a 6-0 advantage 3:10 into the game.
“He only had 11 points. But, he’s the point guard now. And I thought he did a pretty good job of running the team,” said Smith of McComb.
The Dogs also got six first quarter points from Oakes, a bucket for Goings with an assist from Oakes, and another Lair triple to lead 17-3 after one. Oakes led all scorers with 31 points.
“He played tough, he ran the floor in transition,” said Smith of the junior. “He is like a locomotive once he gets going. He gets to the hoop and it’s hard to stop him.”
However, Swanton was outscored 16-10 in the second to make the score 27-19 at the half.
In the third, the Dogs’ lead was brought to as low as six. But, an 8-4 run over the final 3:55 helped them to a 15-point edge going into the final stanza.
First it was McComb who converted a backdoor layup but missed the chance at a three-point play, then Oakes scored down low and Lair hit one of two free throws in between Hinton’s score off an inbound.
Oakes then drilled a pull-up jumper at the 1:09 mark of the third, Graber knocked down a pair at the line, and Oakes hit one of two to make it 43-28 through three.
Swanton now opens the Division III sectional tournament by facing the winner of the game between Cardinal Stritch and Woodmore for the sectional title this Friday at Bowsher beginning at 6:15 p.m.
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010