By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —
Dylan McCaleb had sort of become the forgotten man in the Edgewood offense for much of Tuesday night’s battle with visiting Chardon.
But with four minutes to go, McCaleb all of a sudden became the most valuable Warrior as Edgewood turned back the Hilltoppers, 55-47.
“I struggled for the first three quarters and most of the fourth,” McCaleb said. “But I had to keep shooting and keep playing hard and eventually things worked out.”
McCaleb, who had scored just two points in the first 28 minutes, tallied a bucket with four minutes remaining to put the Warriors up, 44-41.
After a technical on the Warriors’ Andrew Konczal, the Hilltoppers’ Ben Furlich made two free throws and Chardon (2-12, 2-7 in Premier Athletic Conference) was within a point.
Anthony Monda, who hadn’t been in the game until that point, then took a charge to keep Edgewood in front.
Konczal made a free throw in the bonus and McCaleb made four more to give the Warriors a comfortable advantage, 49-43, with 2:23 left.
“I think the difference was foul shots,” Chardon coach Nick Gustin said. “It was a pretty even game. Our defense did a good job taking them out of what they normally like to do. We just didn’t put the ball in the basket enough.
“When you hold a team to 55 points in high school basketball, you should have a good chance to win. The guys battled. They played hard. They don’t give up. Edgewood was 11 of 12 from the foul line in the last three minutes.”
Konczal, McCaleb and Connor McLaughlin combined to make all six of their attempts from the line to hold the Hilltoppers at bay.
The Warriors (11-5) were 13 of 14 (92.9 percent) from the line in the fourth quarter and 14 of 17 (82.4 percent) in the game.
“We practice free throws all the time,” Edgewood coach John Bowler said. “We tell them every night at practice that free throws are going to win them some games. Tonight, they did. I’m pleased with the effort. They played hard.”
A 3-pointer from McLaughlin and a conventional three-point play from Louie Wisnyai had Edgewood up six, 16-10, through eight minutes. Chardon, however, knotted the score, 22-22, by halftime behind a pair of triples from Furlich and a free throw from Jason Janda.
The Warriors used a 14-2 run to open the second half and take a 36-24 lead. McLaughlin hit a pair of 3-pointers and Wisnyai netted six points during the first 3:49 of the third period.
“Connor’s still battling the flu,” Bowler said. “He played as hard as he could and he fought as hard as he could.”
Furlich scored on two 3-pointers and two free throws to cut the Hilltoppers’ deficit to 38-32 to open the fourth. A bucket and a free throw from Andrew Gray had Chardon within two, 40-38, with 5:21 to go in the game. After Edgewood’s Joey Zappitelli scored, Furlich’s final triple had the Hilltoppers within one, 42-41, with 4:20 left.
“Chardon played really hard,” Bowler said. “They played really good man-to-man defense. They got a hand in our face and contested shots. We missed a lot of shots we usually make. That was because of their defense. Their coach does a nice job.”
McLaughlin led the Warriors with 15 points, Konczal netted 13, Wisnyai had 11 and 13 rebounds and McCaleb finished with 10 points.
Furlich led all scorers with 20 points.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.