LIBERTY CENTER — It was undeniably apparent that Matt Stafford or Joe Burrow doesn’t throw passes for the Evergreen boys basketball team.
Fast break passes were overshot.
Backside lobs were undershot.
All in all though, after committing 10 seconds half turnovers, the Vikings slammed the door on Liberty Center, holding the Tigers scoreless in the last four minutes to pull out a 40-37 win Friday in Northwest Ohio Athletic League action.
Evergreen finished 5-2 in the league and 12-9 overall in the regular season, winning nine of their last 11 games.
Evergreen jumped out to a 14-5 first quarter lead as when Liberty Center pushed, the Vikings pushed back. The Vikings got the ball inside as Ethan Loeffler and RJ Shunck scored five in-the-paint hoops, plus Evan Lumbrezer hit a jumper in the key and had a steal and score.
“We matched their physicality tonight,” veteran Viking coach Jerry Keifer said. “They like to be physical and we handled it well which was a big key to get a win.”
However in the second, Wyatt Leatherman got loose three times against the Viking defense and hit three shots from long range to help bring the Tigers within 25-20 at the half.
Zane Zeiter and Riley Chapa baskets began the second half off Evergreen turnovers, bringing the Tigers within 25-24.
Brock Hudik’s two free throws pushed the Vikings back up three but the Tigers took advantage of three more lost possessions from the Vikes on bad passes.
Aiden Hammontree’s basket with 36 seconds left in the third gave Liberty Center a 31-30 lead before yet another Lumbrezer swipe-and-swoop to the rim regained an Evergreen lead in the final three seconds.
Hammontree put the Tigers back up 35-34 with 4:46 left and after Lumbrezer found Tyson Woodring cutting to the hoop, Hammontree scored in tight with four minutes on the clock for a 37-36 Tiger advantage.
That’s when the Vikings clamped down on the defensive end.
Liberty had three chances with zero results and when Shunck hit Lumbrezer slicing through the key, the Vikings took a 38-37 lead with 1:50 to go.
Liberty tried to work the ball for an open look and after 90 seconds, the possession went fruitless and after the Tigers were forced to foul to try to put the Vikings at the foul line, Eli Keifer found Lumbrezer on a sideline out-of-bounds play for a layup and a three point lead.
Again the Viking defense came up strong as all the Tigers could get was Hammontree’s off-balance heave from above the volleyball line that was way off mark.
“Defensively we were very good in the last 1:42 when they had possesion,” Keifer said of his team’s last stand. “We did a really good job denying them and allowing them to get a good look. Then we didn’t let them get what they probably wanted for a last shot.”
Despite the turnovers, Evergreen was efficient when they got shots, hitting 50 percent from the floor.
Liberty Center was just 15-43.
Lumbrezer scored a game-high 18 points and had seven steals. Shunck added 10 and grabbed eight rebounds.
Leatherman led the Tigers with 11 points.
Evergreen now travels to Springfield to play Maumee Valley Country Day tonight at approximately 7:30 p.m. in a Division III sectional semifinal.