COSHOCTON — Call it “The Meadowbrook Miracle”.
For the first time ever, Meadowbrook High is celebrating a boys' basketball tournament victory over Guernsey County rival Cambridge.
Thanks to a steal and layup by senior Brock Miracle in the waning seconds, Meadowbrook completed its first-ever three-game season sweep of Cambridge on Saturday, scoring a 36-34 victory in the Division II Sectional tournament at the Coshocton High School gymnasium. The Bobcats had won all five previous tournament encounters with the Colts.
With the coveted victory, Meadowbrook improves to 12-9 while ending Cambridge's first losing season since 1996-97 at 8-13.
“I'm real proud of the fact that our kids came in with the expectations this time and for once, we weren't the underdog,” beamed Meadowbrook coach Keith Arnold, “but we were able to come out with the victory.
“Three times in one year and the first time in a tournament game…I'll take that,” Arnold said of beating Cambridge.
The first half was anything but artistic, with Meadowbrook jitters leading to a dozen turnovers while Cambridge couldn't get the ball to drop through the hoop despite several easy “looks”.
Cambridge led 8-6 after one quarter despite not scoring for the first 5:30 of the game as the Colts managed just three shots while giving it away seven times. Seniors Tyler Brown and Philip Biggs led their squads with five and four points, respectively.
The Colts tallied the first seven markers of round two — three by Biggs and four by Miracle — to go on top, 13-8.
Cambridge didn't get on the board until the 3:27 mark, but closed with a 7-0 run to claim a 15-13 lead at the intermission.
For the half, Meadowbrook was 6-of-8 from the field while Cambridge had the same number of goals in 20 attempts.
Meadowbrook sophomore Jeramie Neff and Cambridge junior Taylor Leppla staged an outside-inside scoring duel in the third quarter, with Neff tallying eight points early thanks to a pair of “treys” and Leppla controlling things on the other end with 10 as the Colts managed a 15-12 edge to move in front, 28-27, heading to the fourth period.
A leaner in the lane by Biggs opened the final frame and built Meadowbrook's lead to three (30-27). The 'Cats ripped off seven in a row on two hoops by Leppla and a three-point play by senior Trevor Markley to forge ahead, 34-30, with 2:47 left before the Colts got even at 34-all on a short jumper by Miracle and two free throw connections by Neff, the latter with 1:59 to go.
Gaining possession with a minute remaining, Cambridge worked the clock down to 13 seconds before calling a timeout.
That's where Miracle delivered his game-winning play with eight seconds remaining, and when a last-second shot by the 'Cats missed the mark, the Colts had their historic win.
“I think we had that 'deer in the headlights' look early,” Arnold said of his team's first half showing, “but we played through it. We had to get our feet wet because some of our guys had never been on the floor at tournament time, and I thought we played better in the second half.
“They did a good job denying the ball in the first half,” the MHS coach said, “but we set some better screens in the second half and showed better patience. Defensively, we did just enough to win. Give Cambridge credit…they had a great game plan and fought us right to the very end this time.”
For Cambridge, the inability to capitalize early proved costly in the end.
“I thought it was a valiant effort,” said Cambridge coach Don Vogt. “I don't think a lot of people even thought we'd be in the game based on the first two (MHS won 55-33 and 58-37 during the regular season), but we battled to the end.
“I thought (Ryan) Hatmaker and Markley did an exceptional job on Neff in the first half to where he didn't do anything,” the CHS coach related, “but they got him free with a couple of double-screens in the third quarter to get them going.
“We just didn't shoot the ball well,” Vogt lamented. “We had so many opportunities.”
Biggs led the Colts with 14 points along with four rebounds and three blocks. Neff and Miracle finished with 10 points apiece while senior Nick Hudson had six rebounds, six assists and two steals.
The Colts were 13-of-26 from the field (50) percent; had 18 rebounds and 15 turnovers.
Leppla played a solid second half to lead the 'Cats with 14 points and nine rebounds. Markley finished with nine markers while Brown had five points and five rebounds.
“Taylor plays with a lot of heart,” Vogt praised.
Cambridge finished 15-of-42 from the field (35.7 percent) with 22 rebounds and a dozen turnovers.
Cambridge's five postseason wins against Meadowbrook were in 1965-66 (72-58 in the Class AA Sectional at Muskingum College); 1987-88 (78-48 in the Division II Regional final at the Fairgrounds Coliseum in Columbus); 1997-98 (52-39 in the Division II Sectional at Steubenville); 2004-05 (53-42 in the Division II Sectional at Coshocton); and 2006-07 (43-39 in the Division II Sectional at Zanesville).
The other regular season sweeps by the Colts against the Bobcats came in 1965-66 and 1974-75.
Cambridge still has a commanding lead in the all-time series, 65-23.
Meadowbrook will take on West Muskingum in the co-championship game of the Division II Sectional Tournament at Coshocton High school on Thursday at 7 p.m.