COLUMBUS – In a thrilling finish and a match-up of first-time state finalists, Chillicothe defeated Toledo Libbey 70-69 in overtime in the Division II state championship game on Saturday at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
With 5.1 seconds remaining in the extra session and Libbey leading 69-68, Chillicothe’s 5-9 lightning-quick point guard Anthony Hitchens took the inbounds pass, dribbled the length of the floor and dished to Ray Chambers for the game-winner as time expired. It was a crushing loss for Libbey (24-3), but Chillicothe (25-2) was able to make the key plays in the second half and overtime.
“We knew going in it was going to be a great game,” said Chillicothe head coach Gary Kellough. “They are a great basketball team and we were blessed when we got down big we made some big plays and then were able to make the plays at the end.”
Hitchens (who finished with 24 points) and Chambers (23 points) also discussed the state-winning final play.
“I saw he was open and I passed it,” Hitchens said. “I didn’t think he got it off in time. Coach told me in the huddle that I would have time to get in the lane. I thought I would have to shoot a runner or something.”
Added Chambers: “It was crazy, man, I just threw it up there and it went in. I thought I missed it though. … I was shocked he passed it to me. He’s a smart point guard and I love him.”
Libbey’s players won’t soon get over the loss. But William Buford – who won the Mr. Basketball award last week and is off to Ohio State in the fall – was gracious in defeat.
“It’s tough and this isn’t the way you want to go out,” Buford said. “But credit goes to them for playing a great game.”
Buford led all scorers with 29 points.
It was a high-spirited first quarter with Chillicothe coming out with a 2-3 zone and Libbey applying man defense. Buford dropped in a reverse lay-up for the first points of the game at the 6:45 mark.
Hitchens responded with a jumper to tie the score at 2. Then, Libbey’s 6-6 center Julius Wells received a fortunate roll and made a long jumper for a 4-2 Libbey advantage. But on a three-pointer from Stuart Beverly and a lay-up from 6-7 center Ray Chambers, the Cavaliers were staked to a 7-4 lead.
Hitchens picked up two quick fouls for CHS, but stayed in the game and played through it.
A Buford jumper and two free throws from Wells at the 2:35 mark gave the Cowboys the lead back at 8-7. Then a Buford steal led to a fastbreak opportunity and Brad Sandridge sunk one of two free throws for a 9-7 Libbey lead. Right back came Hitchens with a baseline jumper to tie the score. However, a three-pointer from Buford with seven seconds remaining gave the Cowboys a 12-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The teams each did a good job of being patient in the first period. But in the second quarter, the offensive intensity was ratcheted up a few notches.
A thunderous dunk from Chambers tied the score at 14 at the 6:01 mark and brought the Chillicothe fans to their feet. Buford responded with a strong drive to the hole and a 16-14 Libbey lead. Following a basket from Chillicothe’s Caleb Knights, Wells threw a dunk down for Libbey and an 18-16 lead in this athletic affair.
The play of the first half came on a dunk from Libbey’s Jones at the 1:40 mark of the half that almost brought the house down. Jones took the feed from Buford on a fastbreak and jammed the ball down following a short baseline drive. That play gave the Cowboys their largest lead of the game at 29-20.
Hitchens did his best to keep the Cavaliers in the game with a pair of late baskets in the second quarter. However, due to a basket from Sandridge and two free throws from Wells, Libbey retained its nine-point advantage (33-24) heading into the halftime break.
Buford led all scorers with 11 points at the half. Hitchens led Chillicothe with eight markers at the break.
Chillicothe was the team that needed to come out in the third quarter with a sense of urgency. Instead, it was Toledo Libbey that came out of the locker room on fire and went on a 7-0 run to begin the half and extend its advantage. Suddenly, the Cowboys’ lead was up to 16 (40-24) with 6:20 remaining in the third quarter and the Cavaliers called a timeout to try and slow down the momentum.
Hitchens picked up his third foul early in the third quarter, but again was able to play through it. At the 5:12 mark, he brought Chillicothe back within 12 (44-32) with a free throw. However, right back came Jones with a flying dunk on the other end to give Libbey a 44-30 lead.
Chambers then made his presence felt for Chillicothe. He floated to the rim for a lay-up, and the next time down the court he converted a three-point play which cut Libbey’s lead to single-digits (44-35) at the 4:15 mark. A Beverly jumper then brought the Cavaliers even closer at 44-37.
Following a free throw from Libbey, Chambers made a nice post move to make the score 45-39 as the comeback continued for Chillicothe.
Buford responded with a drive to the basket and lay-up for Libbey to make the count 47-39. However, two three-pointers from Hitchens, sandwiched around two free throws from Beverly and a post-up basket from Buford, brought the Cavaliers within just two points at 49-47. What was looking like a game that might get away from Chillicothe was suddenly a barnburner again.
A Wells tip-in of a Buford miss gave Libbey a 51-47 lead as the third quarter expired.
To open the fourth quarter, Hitchens followed his own miss to make the score 51-49. Chillicothe’s man defense in the second half was intense and aggressive. It’s one of the reasons the Cavaliers were able to cut the deficit from 14 to two so quickly.
A Buford putback made the count 53-49, but right back came Seth Dawes with two free throws for Chillicothe (53-51).
Buford then went 1-of-2 from the free throw line, but Chambers sunk two foul shots at the other end to make the score 54-53 Libbey.
A Buford putback of a Wells miss gave the Cowboys a little bit of breathing room at 56-53 with 4:20 remaining. However, Hitchens was fouled as players dived for a loose ball at the 3:53 mark and made both throws to make the score 56-55 Libbey.
2:48 Hitchens jumper 57-56 Chillicothe. Hitchens then was fouled on a drive and hit one out of two free throws at the 2:18 mark for a 58-56 CHS lead. Sandridge bank is open 58-58 1:55.
Hitchens feeds junior forward Ron Smith for a reverse lay-up at the 1:10 mark, giving Chillicothe a 60-58 lead. Then, Buford missed a short jumper at the other end and Chambers was fouled for Chillicothe. He made both attempts and the Cavaliers had a commanding 62-58 lead with under a minute remaining.
However, Buford would not let his team die. He buried a long three-pointer from the top of the key with 26.4 seconds left to make it a one-point game (62-61).
With 19.5 seconds remaining, Knights stepped to the line in the double bonus and missed the first one but made the second (63-61).
Then, with all the pressure on him, Jones made a 17-foot jumper just before the buzzer to knot the score at 63 and send the game to overtime.
In the extra session, Hitchens made one of two free throws at the 3:44 mark to give Chillicothe a 64-63 lead.
On the Cavaliers’ next possession, Hitchens was once again fouled making a hard drive to the basket. Once again he made one of two.
At the 2:36 mark, Chambers dropped in a basket after a nice post feed. Buford responded at the other end with a quick basket, making the score 67-65 Chillicothe.
Following a free throw from Chillicothe, a Buford drive and basket made the count 68-67 with 1:57 remaining.
With 31.9 seconds left and Chillicothe trying to milk the clock, Buford drew a charge on Hitchens to get the ball back for Libbey.
Buford missed a jumper, but Libbey’s Bradley Burton grabbed the rebound. Then Buford drove, found Wells who was fouled by Chambers with 5.1 seconds remaining. Following a timeout, and with ice water apparently running through his veins, Wells made both free throws to give Libbey a 69-68 lead.
Chillicothe then called a timeout to set up its final play. Hitchens took the pass roughly 90 feet from the basket and the lightning-quick guard drove the length of the floor and dished to Chambers who dropped in the game-winner as time expired. The ball almost looked like it was going to bounce out, but it fell through and the celebration was on for the Cavaliers.
* The attendance for the D-II title game was 14,498.
* This marked Toledo Libbey’s second all-time appearance in the state championship game. In 1966, the Cowboys lost the Class AA (big school) title to Dayton Chaminade. In that game, Libbey led by 15 entering the fourth quarter, but Chaminade out-scored the Cowboys 26-8 in the final period to win 55-52. … Libbey was also state semifinalists in 2000, 1969, 1941 and 1928.
* This was Chillicothe’s first title game appearance ever. In fact, it was the Cavaliers’ first trip to the state final four in 78 years (1930) the longest stretch between semifinal appearances in state history. Their only other trip to state occurred in 1924. … Your history lesson for the day: Chillicothe served as the first capital of Ohio beginning with its statehood in 1803.
* Buford entered play averaging 22.6 points per game, 11.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists. … Last week, he edged future Ohio State teammate B.J. Mullens from Canal Winchester for Mr. Basketball honors from the Associated Press. … Other Ohio Mr. Basketball winners to suit up for the Buckeyes include: Toledo Macomber’s Jimmy Jackson (1988-89), Lima Senior’s Greg Simpson (1991-92), Cleveland Heights’ Damon Stringer (1995), Medina’s Tony Stockman (tied for the award in 2000 with Chester Mason), Lima Shawnee’s Jamar Butler (2004), and Upper Sandusky’s Jon Diebler (2007). … Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s LeBron James is the only three-time recipient of the award (2001-03). … Libbey’s Wells entered play averaging 11.7 points per game. He will play at Marist next season.
* For Chillicothe, Hitchens entered play averaging 21.3 points and eight assists. He will be headed to the University of Akron in the fall and picked the Zips over offers from several other MAC programs and Butler. … Chambers entered play averaging 15.5 points and 10 rebounds. He is also being heavily recruited by Ohio schools such as Wright State and several MAC programs.
* Chillicothe finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the state in D-II (the Cavaliers beat No. 1 Poland Seminary in the semifinals) and Libbey finished the regular season with the No. 4 ranking.