ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The Indian Creek boys basketball season came to a close Saturday afternoon at Ohio University-Eastern.
The Redskins, who have been through a season like no other, dropped a 62-58 decision to East Liverpool in the Division II district semifinals.
"We just lost a game today, but my admiration goes to Cookie West and Lisa Cummings for the courage and determination and love they've shown during this whole thing," said Indian Creek coach Joe Dunlevy.
"I want to thank the Indian Creek community, the Ohio Valley community in the way they supported these kids all year. Every school on our schedule, plus some that we didn't play, did things for us, they helped us and I want to thank the people because this is something I've never been through before and never want to go through again.
"I just want to thank everybody from the bottom of my heart for what they've done for these kids.
"I'm not worried about the future of our kids. They have dealt with things that kids their age shouldn't have to deal with. I am proud to coach them and I am sure that down the road they'll be successful.
East Liverpool 62, Indian Creek 58
Indian Creek 8 9 14 27 - 58
East Liverpool 13 9 16 24 - 62
INDIAN CREEK: Furda 0 1-2 1, Roar 0 0-2 0, Rath 0 0-0 0, Hibbits 7 3-5 17, Bowers 5 10-12 21, Kamarec 4 1-1 10, Winland 4 1-2 9. TOTALS: 20 16-24 58. 3-pointers: Bowers, Kamarec.
EAST LIVERPOOL: Kyle 5 1-2 11, Cunningham 0 2-2 2, Thompson 6 0-0 12, Beverly 2 7-8 13, Thompkins 7 9-11 24, Talbott 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 20 19-23 62. 3-pointers: Beverly 2, Thompkins.
"We have to keep praying for Justin and his family that they have the strength to deal with whatever they have to deal with because this is a long process."
On the court, Indian Creek scored the final seven points on the first half to trail 22-17 going into the locker room.
"It was a little uncharacteristic for us in the first half as far as the turnovers," said Dunlevy. "But, give credit them (the Potters). They played hard.
"We weren't aggressive enough against their zone and that's my fault. Once we started being aggressive, it seemed like we were scoring on every possession just going at them. That's always what we've done is attack and be aggressive.
"We try to get to the foul line and get the other team in foul trouble, but you can't do that if you're turning the ball over. We just kept going at them down the stretch and that's what we wanted to do at the beginning, but we didn't. That's my fault."
East Liverpool came out in the second half in its man defense and the Redskins continued its scoring and closed to 27-25 when Potters coach Nate Conley called a timeout with 3:09 left in the third quarter.
The Potters came out, reverted back to the 3-2 zone and went on a 9-2 sprint to force Dunlevy to call a timeout 1:43 later.
"You know how coach Dunlevy is," Conley said. "He does an amazing job with those kids. You look at them during warm ups and you think you are going to blow them out, but we made some major adjustments, too.
"Our defense got a little sloppy at the end of the second quarter, and that was what our halftime talk was about - our intensity. Some of the captains stepped up. I want them to lead on the court, and that is exactly what they did tonight.
"I thought overall, except for a few minutes, we played a very good basketball game."
East Liverpool led 38-31 after three and stretched it to 44-31 with 5:39 remaining in the game when Dunlevy called another timeout.
"Our kids came back," he said. "Our kids just keep playing hard, no matter what the situation is."
The Redskins went on a 12-4 spurt to make it 48-43 with two minutes left when Conley called a timeout.
"We just got more aggressive on offense," said Dunlevy. "Even if you go in there and get your shot blocked, it's still OK because you're going at them.
"We played how we wanted to play defensively. They are a talented team."
Brian Beverly hit two free throws and Joe Bowers buried a triple to make it 50-46 with 1:08 to go. Beverly netted to more at the stripe and Dylan Hibbits followed with a bunny for a 52-48 score.
East Liverpool's Hayden Cunningham then netted two big free throws off the bench to increase the lead to 54-48 with 45.9 showing.
Hibbits hit another bucket with 34.9 left for a 54-50 score.
Marky Thompkins hit two freebies and Bowers a bucket to keep Creek in it at 56-52. Christian Kyle made one free throw and Frank Kamarec's conventional three-point play made it a 57-55 score with 15 seconds remaining.
East Liverpool, though, went 5-for-6 down the stretch at the line, with the one miss being intentional, to close the game.
"You have to give their kids credit for the way they shot free throws down the stretch," said Dunlevy. "I congratulate Nate and his kids. They are a senior-laden team and down the stretch they stuck their free throws.
"They were different this year than they were last year."
The Potters were 19 for 23 for the game.
"We've been like that all year," said Conley. "Our kids did a great job down the stretch."
Bowers finished with a team-high 21 points. Hibbits, a fellow senior, scored 17. Kamarec added 10 and Shane Winland nine.
"What a solid point guard Joe Bowers is," said Conley.
"I don't think he missed a shot in the fourth quarter. He is a very good basketball player. I have a lot of respect for him."
The Redskins were 16 of 24 from the line, but 12 of 13 in the second half.
It was the final game for Bowers and Hibbits.
"I am going to miss all four of our seniors," said Dunlevy.
"Tommy (Fante) and Michael (Furda) never missed a game, in a shirt and tie, rooting for the guys. Joey and Dylan played like seniors against Minerva and did the same thing today."