WELLSVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) – East Canton head coach Kyle McBride elected to play Wellsville at the OHSAA district tournament coaches’ meeting. Before tipoff when he was asked about his team’s 4-18 record, McBride explained that his team came prepared.
Mitch Mitchell provided late game heroics knocking down two game-winning free throws for the Hornets as they defeated Wellsville in a classic showdown 51-50.
“This was the first time when we all fought as a unit and came out on top, McBride said. “When I first came to East Canton we had to learn that winning is a process so this shows what we can do when all our guys play as one.”
The Tigers erupted early with a Branzen Grodhaus layup plus the foul to start the game. Grodhaus finished with seven points and five rebounds on the night.
On the next play, Anthony Baad of East Canton soared through the air for an alley-oop dunk to silence the Wellsville crowd.
Both teams were deadlocked at 5-5 before the Tigers went on a 7-0 run late in the first quarter.
Garrett Scott had two three-pointers and guarded the perimeter greatly for Wellsville. Scott scored 10 of his 11 points in the first half.
Anthony Baad converted a swift layup, followed by his second dunk of the night to cut the deficit to 14-9 at the end of the first quarter.
Wellsville arguably played its best defensive quarter all season, holding the Hornets to eight points.
The Tigers charged out to a 15 point lead after Justin Miller scored his first points on a layup with less than 2 minutes to go in the half.
Anthony Baad made another layup with under a minute to go. Mitch Mitchell capitalized off a Wellsville turnover to hit a buzzer beater three-pointer as time expired. East Canton trailed 29-17 heading into halftime.
The Hornets beautifully executed defense stifled Wellsville in the second half.
Justin Miller and Jake Green were the only two scorers for Wellsville in the third quarter. Miller had seven points while Green had six points on two three-pointers. Miller finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds while Green had 13 points.
Anthony Baad continued to attack the boards on every Wellsville missed shot. Baad made the third consecutive buzzer beater in the game for East Canton on a layup as time expired. Baad finished the contest with a game high 18 points and 11 rebounds. Baad expressed what his mentality was going into the contest.
“I just wanted to crash the glass and get second chance points down low. The buzzer beaters we had at the end of the first three quarters made us feel like we weren’t out of the game and we kept fighting.”
The Hornets scored 17 points in the third quarter, matching their point total at the end of the first half.
Wellsville held on to a 42-34 lead before their offensive firepower ran out.
East Canton achieved a near improbable feat in the final quarter of play. The Hornets swarming defense held the Tigers to only free throws in the contest’s final eight minutes.
The Hornets surged out to a 5-0 run before Wellsville pushed their lead to 47-41 under 2 minutes left in regulation.
East Canton v. Wellsville
East Canton v. Wellsville x
James McCullogh of East Canton made a clutch three-pointer to cut the deficit to three. McCullogh finished the game with 12 points on four three-pointers.
Trey Mallonn stole the ball off a Wellsville turnover and made a layup to cut the deficit to 47-46.
Justin Miller made three consecutive free throws to increase the Wellsville lead to 50-46 with 27.6 seconds left.
James McCullogh fired back with a deep three-pointer to make the contest a one-point game with 19.9 remaining.
The Tigers failed to inbound the ball on the following possession and were charged with a 5-second violation.
East Canton’s Mitch Mitchell drove to the basket and was fouled by Jake Green of Wellsville. Wellsville head coach David “Bug” Thompson called a timeout after Mitchell made his first free throw to tie the game.
Mitchell calmly made his second free throw to take the lead with eight seconds left.
“Throughout the day I was thinking about taking the big shots but I just wanted to come out and get everyone involved so that we could get the win,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell finished with 16 points on the night.
The Tigers were pressured on the final possession. Michael Shope had a look from behind the three-point line, but the shot hit the back of the rim.
East Canton punched its ticket to the next round while the Wellsville faithful was left in disbelief.
David “Bug” Thompson discussed the sting of defeat that his team experienced.
“We lost our composure and East Canton had a great game plan to stop Miller. We kept telling the guys that in tournament time you can’t worry about the regular season record. We just weren’t ready to play tonight.”
The Hornets pulled out a victory in an absolute thriller. Hornets head coach, Kyle McBride reflected on the triumph.
“We lost 10 of our games by eight points or less so we could’ve had 11 or 12 wins. We haven’t been able to get over that hump but the close games over the course of the season helped us in this situation. Wellsville is a classy community and I hope we can carry this momentum into Friday’s game.,” McBride said.
East Canton (now 5-18) moves on to the OHSAA sectional title game where they will travel to Southern Local. Wellsville finished the season with a record of 19-4.