Conference thriller

STRUTHERS — Edgewood escaped from Struthers with a 64-63 victory in All-American Conference boys basketball action on Tuesday night.

After a Wildcats layup narrowed Edgewood’s lead to one with 22 seconds left in the game, the Warriors began to unravel. First, Aaron Anderson attempted to get the ball to Hayden Kanicki, the AAC’s top free throw shooter at 90.3 percent, but the two appeared to be on separate pages as the ball bounced out of bounds.

Struthers took over with 18.2 seconds remaining and, after Felix Rivera knocked a potential game-winning pass out of bounds, had an inbounds from the baseline.

The Wildcats got the ball to their go-to guy, Carson Ryan, but before Struthers’ leading scorer could make a move, Edgewood fouled him with 4.5 seconds left.

Ryan, who finished with a team-high 21 points, missed both foul shots. But, the Warriors still weren’t out of the clear, as they couldn’t handle the rebound and a jump-ball call gave Struthers one more chance.

Isaiah Torreance caught the ball in the corner and had a good look at the basket, but the ball fell just shy of the rim.

“It was a comedy of errors, the last 30-40 seconds of the game,” Edgewood coach John Bowler said. “I thought we were going to give the ball away, but we stuck in there, played our defense and the kids sucked it up and really came through for a big win.”

After allowing Struthers jump out to a 9-2 lead in their last meeting on Jan. 9, a 76-55 Wildcats victory, the Warriors (15-2, 8-2 AAC) flipped the script and opened the rematch on a 9-2 run of their own.

David Moore closed the first quarter by banking in a near-half-court buzzer beater and Edgewood carried its lead into the halftime break.

Then, Ryan took over.

The Wildcat sophomore scored 12 points in the third quarter and helped Struthers take its first lead of the game late in the quarter.

Stuggling to stop Ryan, Bowler called Sam Jerman’s number. Jerman, who didn’t play the first time the two teams met, said Bowler gave him one job.

“(Bowler) was like make sure (Ryan) does not touch the rock,” Jerman said.

The junior stayed on his man, but toward the end of the third, he sagged off Ryan to help on a drive and saw the ball skip past him toward the a wide-open Ryan in the corner.

“My heart dropped,” Jerman said. “But other than that, he did nothing.”

Jerman shut Ryan down and limited the sophomore to one basket in the final frame.

Still, Struthers extended its lead to six and its zone defense started giving Edgewood fits on offense.

“We don’t see a lot of zone because we shoot the ball well, but they are long and they're fast and they have a really, really nice team and the zone bothered us a little bit,” Bowler said.

With his team in a rut, and needing a win to keep pace with undefeated Poland, Ricky Baldwin took over.

Baldwin powered and spun his way into the paint and scored eight straight points to pull Edgewood within one. Shortly after, he forced a turnover on defense then found Anderson on the wing for a 2-pointer to retake the lead for good.

Baldwin finished with a game-high 23 points.

“Ricky was huge,” Bowler said. “He was just working hard and finding the holes in the zone.”

The win sets up a big-time AAC showdown on Friday between the second-place Warriors and undefeated Poland.

A Bulldogs win would all-but assure them a conference championship. An Edgewood win, however, would pull the Warriors within one game of Poland with another matchup between the two schools to look forward to.

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