The stakes were high Tuesday night at Buchtel High School, and both teams knew it.
East and Buchtel lined up knowing that Firestone had clinched a spot in next week’s City Series playoff championship.
The other spot will be filled by either East or Buchtel.
Buchtel took a key step in securing the second spot by beating East 82-80 in double overtime before a raucous crowd in a game that felt like the City Series championship before the City Series championship.
Seniors Demonte Hicks, Sable Cooper and Elijah Bell combined to score 49 points for the Griffins (12-5, 9-2), who are in second place, one game ahead of the Dragons (10-6, 8-3).
Buchtel had nine players score to overshadow East’s six players who scored. The Dragons had three players score more than 20 points: senior Brandon Townsend (23 points), senior Demetrius Ray (22 points) and sophomore Derik Lewis (21 points).
“We have to beat North [Friday] to clinch a spot,” Buchtel coach Stephen White said.
“Both teams were riding on high emotions tonight. [Ray] hit a 3 [at the buzzer to end the fourth quarter], then we kept throwing the ball away in situations. We kept trying to tell them we don’t need a hero, and we threw the ball away too much. I just think we played well and East did a great job as usual.”
Firestone defeated host Kenmore 76-44 Tuesday to win the City Series regular season title with an 11-1 league record.
Buchtel hopes to have a third meeting with Firestone, after losing the previous two.
Senior Tyler Jones scored three of his nine points in the second overtime Tuesday for Buchtel, which outscored East 4-2 in the final period. East missed an off-balance 3-pointer as the final horn sounded.
East’s largest lead was 10 points, and Buchtel’s biggest advantage was nine points. Neither side was able to hold those leads in a back-and-forth game.
Cooper scored Buchtel’s first 11 points in the fourth quarter, and finished the game with 17 points and five rebounds.
“Saturday night after the [St. Vincent-St. Mary] game, I called Sable,” White said. “Usually I text him, but I called him and said, ‘We are going to need you. We are going to need your rebounding and defense. If you score, that is a bonus.’ I knew we would need him as a player and he pulled through tonight. He has been in a funk lately.”
Hicks was Buchtel’s leading scorer with 18 points and nine rebounds. Bell added 14 points, 11 rebounds and three steals.
East led 20-17 following one quarter, but Buchtel led 32-31 at halftime. The score was tied 45-45 after three quarters, 69-69 after four quarters and 78-78 after the first overtime.
“Our kids found out about themselves,” East coach Ross Fiorello said. “They played hard for 40 minutes. We found that you have to play every quarter to the end. There were a couple of big plays that happened at the end of quarters and the overtimes.”
Sophomore Deric Rucker scored 10 points for Buchtel, which also received quality minutes from senior Jharshon Graise, junior Tre Smith, sophomore LaShawn Johnson and junior Ci’Andre Johnson-Lollar.
“We just gutted that game out,” White said. “Our seniors really played tough and I am proud of our team. I think we have turned the program around. Last year, we finished fifth [in the league]. If we win Friday, we will be in second place and then move into the City championship.”
Lewis and Ray made outside shots to help East, and Townsend gave the Dragons a presence inside by also grabbing 10 rebounds. Seniors Trevon Stafford and Zamar Whitaker both scored six points for East.
Buchtel finished with 31 turnovers. East had 22.
East junior Kenyon Philpott finished with six steals and Lewis had four steals.
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.