Firestone senior Jerome Lane stood with the City Series playoff championship trophy in hand and a big smile on his face.
Lane’s elbows were bloodied following a massive postgame celebration with teammates and fans, but he didn’t care, because he had the coveted trophy and a piece of the net in his possession following Firestone’s 65-64 victory over visiting Buchtel.
“This win is great and I feel so good,” said Lane, who had 37 points, 17 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals to lead the Falcons (13-7) over the Griffins (13-6) for the third time this season. “We were down 12, but I was not worried. I was determined to help us come back and win. I knew we could come back as a family. There was just something about this game. I had a feeling that we would win.”
Falcons senior Kevin Gladney broke a 64-64 tie with a free throw with 13.4 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. The Griffins missed a desperation 3-pointer as time expired.
“This was a super intense game,” said Falcons junior Jae’Quan Jones, who had five assists. “We stayed together as a family and got it going after all the turnovers. We just ran our offense right, settled down on defense and played our game to get this win.”
Lane scored 23 points in the first half. He helped the Falcons overcome a 12-point deficit (32-20) in the second quarter with 13 points in a row to give his team a 33-32 lead at halftime. The Griffins built another 12-point lead (51-39) in the third quarter, only to have the Falcons respond again.
“Our guys never gave up,” Firestone coach Dave Milo said. “Buchtel is a good team. They changed up the defenses and did a really nice job of throwing different stuff at us. You have to be prepared for that, and I kept telling the guys, ‘Be prepared for everything.’ Our guys adjusted, and let’s face it, these guys have big hearts.”
Lane fouled out with 22.7 seconds left in the game, but his contributions were huge.
“There is a reason he is the City Series Player of the Year, and he proved it,” Milo said.
Senior Elijah Bell paced Buchtel with 19 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore Deric Rucker added 13 points and 12 rebounds. Seniors Sable Cooper (nine points), Tyler Jones (eight points) and Demonte Hicks (seven points) all fouled out.
“I am proud of our kids and how hard they played,” Buchtel coach Stephen White said. “We played good. We just got the lead and I don’t know what happened. … We tried to make them [come out of the zone defense to] match up with us, but we kept throwing the ball away.”
Lane and Gladney were both named to the All-City Series first team. Milo sat Gladney the first half for “disciplinary reasons.” Gladney entered the game midway through the third quarter. He finished with eight points, five rebounds and three steals.
“I just take leadership and responsibility for the position I was in,” Gladney said. “My teammates needed me. I am a scorer.”
Falcons junior Evan Kennerly totaled eight points, nine rebounds and five blocks.
“This was a wild game, very wild,” Kennerly said. “Going through this game, we wanted to make it not close at all, but as you can see it was close. The tension was really tight.”
Falcons junior Miles Kirk scored five points, and senior Ja’Tice Shaw added five assists.
“We played hard D and really came together as a team,” Kirk said.
“Kevin stepped up after not playing in the first half. He came in and played well for us. J.T. did his thing and Evan had an awesome game. We really just played as a family.”
Firestone won despite making 17-of-31 free throws and committing 24 turnovers.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.