ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Big Red will play for an Eastern District Division II championship thanks to perhaps the most memorable moment in Chris Smith's basketball career.
The senior forward got nothing but net on a short jumper in the lane as time was expiring Saturday, lifting Big Red to a heart-stopping 71-69 double overtime victory over Philo on the campus of Ohio University Eastern.
Smith's game-winner came seconds after Philo's Zak Sheridan drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key, knotting the score at 69. Big Red was looking to put the ball in Brandon Herring-Hill's hands but the Electrics defended the senior guard well.
Instead, Smith drove on Chase Hambel, Philo's muscular 6-3 post, spun toward the hoop and launched his shot. A desperation heave by the Electrics came up well short and launched a Big Red celebration.
"I felt it as soon as I shot," a smiling Smith said. "My team got me the basketball and everyone cleared out. I just tried to run down the clock and get the last shot. If I missed, I knew we would go to a third overtime.
"This is something I can always remember. But, we're not done yet, we have bigger goals."
Big Red 71, Philo 69
Philo14 10 16 13 8 8 - 69
Big Red 19 13 12 9 8 10 - 71
PHILO (14-10): Fletcher 3 2-2 9; Kirkbride 1 1-1 3; Smith 2 2-6 6; Sheridan 5 1-2 13; Osborn 0 1-2 1; Cassady 3 5-6 11; Hambel 12 2-3 26. TOTALS: 26 14-22 69. 3-pointers: Sheridan 2, Fletcher; Rebounds: 27 (Hambel 14); Turnovers 14.
BIG RED (21-3): Wallace Jones 0 0-0 0; Herring-Hill 10 5-6 27; Herrington 1 2-2 4; Reeves 3 3-5 9; Bougard 0 0-0 0; Sterling 6 0-0 14; D. Smith 0 0-0 0; C. Smith 8 0-4 17. TOTALS: 28 10-18 71. 3-pointers: Herring-Hill 2, Sterling 2, C. Smith; Rebounds: 42 (C. Smith 13, Reeves 9); Turnovers 13.
With the scored tied, Big Red coach Mike Haney reminded his players during a time-out before Smith's huge shot, "we can't lose the game."
"We wanted to take the last shot, hopefully with about three seconds left," Haney said. "We thought we maybe could get a tip-in if we miss but we didn't want to give them enough time to take it the other way.
"They were face-guarding Brandon and wouldn't let him get the ball. We liked our chances with their big guy guarding Chris. He made a nice little spin move and hit that turnaround jumper."
Big Red, thanks to a 7-0 first quarter scoring run and a 6-0 burst in the second, seemed to have control of the game at halftime. Haney's crew led by eight (32-24) at the break. Herring-Hill drilled five of his seven field goal attempts and finished the opening half with 14 points. Smith went five for nine and added 11.
The seventh-seeded Electrics, however, weren't going to make it easy. Six straight Hambel points made it 34-32 early in the third. Big Red freshman Charles Reeves scored on a putback before Sheridan reeled off three in a row and Philo trailed 36-35.
Adam Sterling, Herring-Hill and Smith powered a 6-0 Big Red run and Steubenville led 44-40 heading into the fourth. During the third, Philo went seven for 11 from the floor.
Coach Jeff Rinkes' crew rattled off four straight to start the final frame and the score stood at 44-44. Herring-Hill responded with a deuce but Philo accounted for the next four. When Hambel drove the baseline and scored, the Electrics went ahead 48-46, their first lead since early in the opening stanza.
The lead went back and forth during the remainder of the period. Philo's Hunter Smith canned a jumper with 15 seconds left in regulation, knotting the score at 53 and forcing the first extra session.
Reeves, who was plagued by foul trouble early, sparked Big Red in the initial overtime, scoring four of his nine points. He drained two free throws with 56 seconds left and Big Red trailed 58-57. Tyler Cassady and Herring-Hill exchanged hoops then Cassady went one for two from the stripe giving Philo a 61-59 advantage with less than 10 seconds remaining. Sterling sent the game into a second overtime when he grabbed a Herring-Hill miss and banked home two points.
A Smith leaner in the lane and two Herring-Hill foul shots put Big Red up 65-61 early. Philo's Layke Fletcher tied things at 66 when he netted a triple. Sterling responded with a three-ball (Smith found him alone in the corner) and it was 69-66 Big Red. Sheridan then connected from behind the arc.
"It was a great game," a jubilant Haney pointed out after his team cut down the nets inside OUE's Health and Physical Education Building to officially celebrate Big Red's first sectional title since 2007. "Philo is a great team with great coaches. They really got after it when they were down and we got after it when we went down in the fourth.
"It was just a great back and forth game. It really feels good to have come out on top."
Herring-Hill took game scoring honors with 27. Smith finished with 17 to go along with 13 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a couple of blocks. Sterling, who had a tough shooting day, added 14.
"They have stepped up all year," Haney said of his three senior leaders. "I'm proud of them and their efforts today. Sterling had a tough day shooting but he came through when we needed him and drilled that three at the right time."
"Chris carried us early in the year when we had guys in foul trouble and he really came through today. He had a lot of big rebounds and played great overall. He had to guard their big guy (Hambel) and he is one outstanding post player. I'm glad we are going to practice on Monday."
Big Red won the rebounding battle 42-27. Of the 42, 18 came on the offensive end. Sophomore Dionee Wallace-Jones came off Haney's bench and snatched four offensive boards.
"Those offensive rebounds were key, especially the ones Dionee came through with," Haney stated.
Hambel recorded a double-double for Philo, which finished at 14-10. The hard-working senior had 26 points and 14 rebounds. Sheridan contributed 13 and Cassady 11.
The thrilling victory moves Big Red to 21-3 and sets up a Thursday match with top-seeded Dover in the one game district event. The tip is set for 7 p.m. at OUE.
"We've scouted Dover three times and they are an outstanding team," Haney noted. "Their coach does an excellent job; they are real patient on offense and like to the shoot the three. It definitely will be a huge challenge for us."
As Smith pointed out, "it feels great to win a sectional championship."
"It's definitely better than last season when we lost," he added. "We worked hard all year to get back here and perform better than we did last season."