After a quite first half due to foul trouble, All-Ohio senior Robert Wilson led his team with 21 second-half points, scoring 15 alone in the fourth period, to help lead Streetsboro to a Division II district title. Wilson’s tap-in at the buzzer gave Boro a 77-75 win over Poland.
The Poland Bulldogs had won a district championship in each of the last two seasons. The Streetsboro Rockets hadn’t even played for a district title since the 1967-68 season.
The two teams were matched against each other in a Division II district final at Boardman High School on Saturday night that featured an astounding 29 lead changes and 12 ties.
And with just 10 seconds remaining on the clock in regulation time, they were deadlocked at 75 and Streetsboro would need to travel the length of the court to attempt a winning shot at the basket.
As it turned out, the Rockets would have three attempts at a winning field goal in that short time span and the third one was the charm.
All-Ohio standout Robert Wilson was in the right place at the right time to corral an errant put-back attempt by teammate of Carrington Hanna, who had grabbed teammate Rico Smith’s miss on a pull up floater from the left side of the hoop, to score the winning basket as time expired giving Streetsboro a hard-fought 77-75 victory.
“Rico had the open shot, he just missed it,” Wilson said. “Carrington got the tip, he missed it and I was there for the rebound. It’s just as simple as that. It happened so fast. We won the game.”
Call it redemption if you’d like. Wilson, who was held to just two points at half time as he spent time on the bench during the first 16 minutes of the game due to foul trouble, was the object of a little razzing by the Poland student section who were chanting “overrated” when Wilson was at the foul line early in the third period.
So was Wilson frustrated because of his early foul trouble in the first half?
“A little bit. But the refs are going to get me. They were calling it the same all throughout the tournament. I’ve been getting two fouls real quick. But it’s all right,” he said. “You’ve just got to persevere and fight through it at the end.”
His teammates did just that with Wilson on the bench in the first half.
“We talked about this. We wanted to make sure that we kept it close in the first half,” said fourth-year Streetsboro head coach Todd Muckleroy. “It’s just one of those things where our kids know how to step up their game when Robert is not on the floor. And I felt pretty confident that in the second half, hopefully, Robert had some fresh legs and I knew that would kind of help us because I thought we were kind of tiring out Poland just a little bit. So that was nice to see how he came back and stepped up because I knew he was pretty frustrated in the first half.”
Eventually Wilson did get his game going after the intermission to put up some gaudy numbers in the second half. His game-winning tap at the buzzer was his 14th rebound of the contest and he finished out the game with 21 second-half points, with 15 of those coming in the fourth period.
“This is just obviously a great win against a great program in Poland,” Muckleroy said. “I didn’t know what to think there. With 10 seconds I never thought that buzzer was going to go off. I thought we were going to go to overtime to be quite honest. But these guys work hard from buzzer to buzzer and it starts with our seniors with Robert and Carrington and Rico (Smith – 21 points) and Corey (Lanterman). Those guys are just born competitors. They don’t quit until the buzzer goes off. It’s a nice feeling. It’s a great feeling.”
Poland head coach Ken Grisdale was obviously disappointed that he couldn’t lead his team to their seventh district title in nine attempts. The loss to the Rockets marked the second time that his team lost a district championship at the buzzer.
“I hurt like heck for our kids but their kids deserved it. I can’t take anything away from them,” said Grisdale who guided his team to the state semifinals in each of the past two seasons. “I’m upset that we failed but good luck to them. I’d like to see them go take care of business in Canton.”
While Ben Donlow had a workmanlike 22 points and 12 rebounds for Poland who started five juniors, it was Luke Wollet who had a career night with his game-high 25-point effort that included six 3-point field goals to go with his five rebounds and four steals.
“Luke did a great job. This was the best game he’s played so far,” the coach said. “He’s a competitor. You guys saw it on the football field. He’s going to go make plays when you need to and he kept us where we needed to be, but we turned the ball over too much in the first half. I don’t know how many we had but we wasted a lot of possessions when I personally thought we had them wondering whether they could play with us at the beginning. And as the game went on it was a very good game. Very competitive.”
It certainly was everything Wilson and his teammates dreamed of for obviously a very long time.
“It was everything we worked for all year,” said Wilson after he finished cutting down the net. “All year we wanted to come to this game and play Poland. All year. We scrimmaged them and we knew we could beat them when it came down to it. The time was here and we came to play. A whole lot of weight is off our shoulders now because we accomplished what we wanted to do. We made history at Streetsboro! This is what we’ve wanted since November, since October, and all throughout the summer. This is what we’ve worked for and now we’ve got it. Now we just go on to regionals.”
Streetsboro (21-2) will advance to the Canton regional where they will take on St. Vincent-St. Mary on Thursday night at the Canton Memorial Civic Center.