COLUMBUS – Sugarcreek Garaway senior Chase Stingel has been practicing last-second shots every since he was a little kid.
And that practice paid off for Stingel Friday at the 86th Annual Boys State Basketball Tournament in the Division III semifinals as he sunk 3-pointer from the corner with less than one second left to upend Cleveland Villa Angela/St. Joseph 50-47 in thrilling fashion to advance to the state championship game.
“When I was younger, I’d be out in my backyard taking last-second shots,” Stingel said. “I never imagined I would be taking the last-second shot in the state tournament. It’s amazing.”
VASJ (21-5) led 47-44 with 1:33 left in the game following a couple of Nate Barnes free throws. But on Garaway’s next possession, Stingel hit a 3 with 1:09 remaining to tie the game.
On VASJ’s ensuing possession, guard Brian Jenkins played keep-away dribbling the ball about half court to wind the clock down for the chance to give the Vikings the last shot in the game.
Jenkins lost the handle and he tried to get it to Ashen Ward in the corner on the recovery but the ball went out-of-bounds and Garaway took over with 13 seconds remaining.
“We thought if we had a chance to get the ball back and give us one possession left, it would give us a pretty good chance,” said Garaway head coach Dave Shutt.
The Pirates took a timeout out to set up Stingel’s late game heroics.
“What a great job executing at the end,” Shutt said. “We were fortunate enough to get the possession for the last shot. It is something we have executed time and time again and we were debating on which play we should run and we said, ‘Let’s go by our standby (play)’.
“We got a great screen from Devin Schie and Paul (Honigford) to get (Stigel) open and we had a great pass from (Tyler) Gerber and the rest is history.”
“(Garaway) hit some big, key shots there at the end with the three-pointer to tie and the late one to win it,” VASJ head coach Dave Wojciechowski said. “Those are big shots and I am just proud of our guys for what they have accomplished the last few years.”
Garaway (24-3) was phenomenal beyond the arc shooting 58 percent from three on 7-of-12 shooting. Stingel was 4-of-6 from three and guard Gerber went 3-of-5 from downtown.
Stingel finished with 16 points and Division III co-player of the year Gerber netted 16 points of his own.
Gerber went down with an ankle injury late in the third quarter with Garaway clinging to a 40-37 lead. The Pirates committed four straight turnovers in that stretch after coughing up the ball only twice in the first half.
The game was knotted at 42-42 going into the fourth quarter and Garaway had a few opportunities to pull away in the final frame but went 0-for-5 on foul shot attempts.
“Imagine being out here on this big of a stage and playing as hard as you can – I think fatigue probably come into it a little bit,” Shutt said about Garaway’s free throw shooting in the fourth quarter.
VASJ shot a dismal 37 percent from the floor making 17-of-42 attempts. The Vikings were 5-of-21 on 3-point attempts.
VASJ had a decided height advantage with 6-foot-7 Klein Harper and 6-foot-8 Dominick Hayes in the post. But Garaway defended the paint well denying easy entry passes inside and it forced the Vikings to rely on outside shooting.
“We didn’t play in the post and we needed to,” Wojciechowski said. “It’s my fault for not stressing the interior offense more.”
Barnes, Division III co-player of the year with Gerber, scored eight points for VASJ. Harper double-doubled with 10 points and 12 rebounds and third team All-Ohio selection Ashen Ward added eight points.
This year marked the third straight Final Four trip for VASJ. The Vikings were state runners-up in 2006 and bowed out in the semifinal round last year.
“It’s a struggle to know that you worked so hard to get down here three times and come up short all three times,” said Ward. “It’s just a mental struggle.”
The Vikings won state championships in 1991, 1992, 1994 and 1995.
Junior forward David Gerber netted 12 points for Garaway in the post.
For the Pirates, it is their second trip to the state Final Four finishing state runners-up in 2003.
The Garaway Lady Pirates finished Division III state runners-up last week.
“It’s been fun for the kids, the community and everybody around,” Shutt said.
Garaway will take on Ottawa-Glandorf on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. for the state championship.
Gerber, who averaged 20 points per game this season, returned to the game late in the third quarter after suffereing the ankle injury and anticipates being able to play in the state championship.
“When I rolled it, it hurt like crazy,” he said. “I never rolled it that bad before but it’s my senior year and I wanted to be back in there. It’s tough but I am happy we won.
“It kind of hurts right now and when I walk it is achy but I am sure I will be ready to go.”