NORTON: Friday night turned out to be a wild night as well as a memorable one for everyone associated with the Norton boys basketball team.
Junior Jay Ventura converted a game-winning three-point play with 4.8 seconds to go to lift host Norton to a 52-49 victory over rival Springfield in a hotly contested Portage Trail Conference-Metro Division game.
Ventura’s shot wasn’t the only story line. Norton 6-foot-7 senior Tyler Sherman surpassed 1,000 career points, and the Panthers welcomed back 6-5 senior Matt McGlone and 6-6 junior Aaron Van Buskirk.
Sherman led the Panthers (12-3, 8-1) with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Victor Dorsey, a 6-7 junior, paced the Spartans (9-6, 4-5) with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Both were involved in Ventura’s shining moment after 6-0 junior Justin Blanks (six points) missed a difficult layup.
“After that layup that hit off the backboard, Tyler and Dorsey were going after the ball,” Ventura said. “It just flew right to me. I was crashing on backside for a backside rebound. I just grabbed it and I went up as high as I could because I knew Victor could jump. I got it over the top of his fingers and he fouled me as the shot went in.”
Ventura, a 6-3 guard, made the free throw to finish with six points. Springfield missed a 3-pointer from near halfcourt as time expired.
“We love beating Springfield,” Sherman said. “We beat them by at least 20 the last game we played at their place. When they came here we knew they wanted to come back and get us. Victor is a great player. He was guarding me most of the game. He is a strong guy. He is good in and out. I like that matchup with him and I love the competition.”
Norton had nine players score. Springfield had four.
“I saw a lot of grittiness from our guys today,” Norton coach Rod Swartz said. “I thought we were a little flat and a little slow with our step in the first half. We came out in the third quarter with better energy and made some stops at the defensive end.”
Springfield led 11-10 after one quarter, but Norton rallied to lead 27-26 at halftime and 41-37 after three quarters.
“Springfield played a great game,” Swartz said. “I keep trying to get our guys to understand that every team is going to be out here to play their best against us because they want to beat us. We are in a tight race right now in the league.”
Van Buskirk (five points) was reinstated after missing games against Green and Ravenna.
“We preach we are a family on and off the court,” Swartz said.
“We are close knit and if we can accept and get along with each other, the success is going to show on the basketball court. Sometimes in life, it’s not just about basketball. It’s about what is good for a kid and I am really proud of our kids for taking him back. Aaron approached them and was apologetic for his conduct.”
McGlone (five points) missed the same two games due to a cut that required stitches.
Norton 6-5 junior Dakota Pratt had 10 points and five rebounds.
“Tyler scored the 1,000th point of his career tonight,” Swartz said. “That is a great accomplishment. Not very many kids can say that in a high school basketball career. That is a tremendous feat.”
Spartans junior guard Jake Kitchen scored 14 points, and junior forward Logan Treen added nine points.
“We are disappointed,” Springfield coach Steve Shaffer said.
“We came into tonight and wanted to compete. We knew if we played the way we are capable, we could give them a run. I think we did that tonight. We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. . . . I think we can play with anybody in the league. We just have to be more consistent.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.