WADSWORTH: Tanner Houska’s 15-foot jumper with 4.4 seconds left in the second overtime completed Highland’s rally from a double-digit, second-half deficit and lifted the visiting Hornets to a thrilling 63-61 win over rival Wadsworth Friday night.
Coupled with Green’s overtime loss at Tallmadge, the Hornets (14-6, 10-3) only need a win over Copley to clinch an outright Suburban League title.
Houska’s game-winner followed a clutch 3-pointer by Highland junior Brogan Scott, which tied the score 52-52 with 11 seconds to play in regulation and forced overtime.
“The team overall kind of woke up all of a sudden,” Highland coach Michael Murphy said. “I didn’t think we were in deep trouble, but I wondered if we were ever going to catch up.
“Your good players [in order] to win, what do they have to do? They have to make plays. Brogan made a huge one and Tanner made a huge one.”
With Scott playing with four fouls and banging with Wadsworth’s second-leading scorer Kyle Prunty (15 points) in the post, Murphy elected to hold the ball in the second overtime.
The strategy worked perfectly when the Hornets gained possession with 2:38 left and the score tied 61-61.
Houska dribbled away most of the clock and Murphy called a timeout with just more than 40 seconds to play to plan for the final shot.
With Wadsworth forcing him right, Houska, a 5-foot-11 point guard, pulled up and drilled a textbook jump shot.
“We got it done,” said Houska, just feet away from his teammates jumping up and down and celebrating with Murphy in the middle of it all. “I got too far under the rim last week in the same situation and I ended up throwing up a bad shot. I wanted to make them back off me, so I could shoot the ball.”
Scott, a 6-foot-5 junior, had a game-high 23 points and turned in a solid defensive effort on the interior.
The unsung hero for Highland was senior Alex Wood (12 points). With the Grizzlies leading 35-25 midway through the third quarter, Wood connected on three consecutive 3-point goals to slice Highland’s deficit to 40-36. Scott then nailed a 3-pointer at the end of the quarter to tie the score at 40-40 heading into the fourth quarter.
Both teams played a forgettable fourth quarter right up until Scott’s big shot. It appeared senior Anthony Palecek (17 points) might be the hero for Wadsworth when he sank two free throws with 31 seconds left to give the Grizzlies a 52-49 advantage.
The first overtime was a complete reversal of form as the teams traded baskets, and the game quickly morphed into a classic.
Houska’s three-point play had Highland on top 61-59 with just under a minute to play, but Wadsworth junior Joel Kipfer’s tip-in pulled the Grizzlies even at 61-61 and forced another overtime.
Junior guard Austin White finished with 13 points for Wadsworth (12-7, 8-5).
The Grizzlies led 20-11 halfway through the second quarter on a 3-pointer from the top of the key by senior guard Patrick Long. But six second-quarter turnovers hurt Wadsworth and the Hornets, on the strength of 3-pointers from Wood and junior Ben Hauser, rallied to trail 25-21 at half.