By VINCE PELUSO — firstname.lastname@example.org
ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — As Andrew Konczal’s 3 from the corner dropped to tie Edgewood’s contest with Perry at 52 with 57.6 seconds left, the home Warrior crowd erupted.
As loud as it was in that moment on senior night, it was just as silent when Perry’s Zack Buescher put back a Cale Burdyshaw missed free throw with 4.5 seconds to give the Pirates a 54-52 non-conference road win.
“I went on the right side because I’m a lefty and I just saw the ball bounce off the back of the iron, jumped up as high as I could, got it and went up with it,” Buescher said. “It was awesome, it was senior night for them. It was good to come in here and get a last-second win.”
Buescher was fouled on the shot and missed the ensuing free throw and a Dylan McCaleb heave from the backcourt bounced off the backboard as time expired.
Buescher’s late-game heroics were set up by Perry (9-6) running 42.8 seconds off the clock before first-year Pirates coach Al Iacofano called timeout.
Perry came out with an isolation play for Burdyshaw and a reach-in foul 20-feet from the basket was called on Edgewood (11-6), sending Burdyshaw to the line for a one-and-one, which he missed.
In what was a physical, back-and-forth contest, Warriors coach John Bowler didn’t like to see the game decided by an official’s call. He also added that the Pirates’ patience on offense caused his team to foul at times.
“I really hate when the refs put it in their hands with 10 seconds to play in the game,” he said. “You should let the players play. These kind of man-to-man, physical games for us, we’ve learned now how to play with that type of game so it doesn’t bother us as much.
“But they (Perry) pass the ball, they’re very patient and that made us foul too much at times.”
A close win is nothing to new for Iacofano, who said his team has been down that road plenty times before.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games, we have nine wins, of those nine wins, eight of them have been games like this, not last second, but a couple possession wins,” he said. “They’ve been there before, they held their composure and didn’t get too worried.”
Perry scored the opening hoop of the game and
actually never trailed, with Edgewood’s only time coming on Konczal’s 3 in the final minute.
The Pirates stretched their lead to 44-35 in the fourth period, but Warrior point guard Connor McLaughlin (11 points) buried back to back 3-pointers in a span of 15 seconds with 5:18 remaining to make it a one possession game.
The teams battled back and forth the rest of the way and a Matt Fitchet bucket with 1:40 brought the Warriors within one at 50-49. A layup by Ian Illig (13 points) pushed the lead to three before Konczal’s 3 tied it.
Bowler said the 3 was important for Konczal, who had game-highs in rebounding and scoring with 18 points and 11 boards.
“It was (big), he couldn’t (hit a jumper throughout) so he was due,” Bowler said. “He knows he can shoot it anytime he wants. I wish we could’ve made a few more foul shots. We’re the best foul shooting team in the county and tonight we weren’t.”
Buescher said Iacofano was able to pull the team together after Konczal’s shot.
“Coach just pulled us in and said, ‘Don’t worry about that 3,’” he said. “The place was going crazy though, it was hard to hear. We wanted to hold for the last shot and gladly I got the rebound and put it in.”
For Iacofano, Buescher’s bucket was big for a sophomore who was still developing.
“That’s a big play for Zack, he’s only a sophomore, he’s made a leap from freshmen basketball to varsity, he’s played a lot of minutes for us,” he said. “He keeps fighting, we’re on him a lot, we have expectations for him. To see him fight and be physically aggressive and fight for that rebound and go up strong.
“That’s the sign of growth we’re looking for and something we can build on.”
Perry was led in scoring by Illig’s 13 followed by Burdyshaw’s 11, Anthony Keipert with 9 and Ryan Zalatel with 8.
Bowler said with a close loss, his Warriors need to focus on the small things that add up in such games.
“We missed two or three layups, we didn’t shoot good from the foul line so there’s a lot of little things we need to correct,” he said. “Sometimes, we didn’t box out at the foul line, they got the ball back and got another chance. We just gotta do better. We gotta work harder. We gotta eliminate those little silly mistakes we’re making.
“It (the loss) magnifies it to me 100 percent. It really does. At this point in the season, we shouldn’t be doing some of the things we’re doing. I shouldn’t have to holler, ‘box out!’ every time a team takes a shot. These little things, right now, we gotta stop. We’re getting close to tournament time and if we do this in the tournament, it’s gonna be a quick out.”