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Big Red advances, avoids major upset to Creek with OT thriller

Steubenville's Quinn McCoy blocks a shot from Indian Creek's Logan Schaffer during Saturday's Division II East district sectional play-in contest. -Joe Catullo

STEUBENVILLE — Big-time players will make big-time plays when a game is on the line, and such was the case for Steubenville’s Zion Sawyer Saturday night.

With second-seeded Steubenville leading No. 16 Indian Creek by one with 10.7 seconds left remaining in overtime, Big Red’s Phaeton Hill missed the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity. Sawyer quickly grabbed the rebound and put it in for a three-point advantage with seven seconds remaining.

That forced the Redskins’ Logan Kuczykowski to dribble it full court following a timeout and swing it to Isaiah Vandine at the top of the key. The senior got a good look, but the shot was just a little too strong. Creek’s Jacob Wright grabbed the rebound but ran out of time to get it back to 3-point territory or call the team’s final timeout.

Steubenville avoided the major upset, 52-49, to advance in the Division II East district tournament.

“That was huge,” Big Red head coach Mike Haney said regarding Sawyer’s put-back. “We always stress to these guys that every possession matters. You have to work every possession and not take time off. It’s a completely different ballgame if he misses that. We made them shoot from the 3-point line, a 20-footer or so.”

Sawyer began the overtime period with a pair of free throws. Following a few scoreless possessions, Vandine nailed a step-back 3-pointer for Creek’s first and only lead of the contest, 49-48, with two minutes remaining.

Hill stepped to the line 13 seconds later and nailed two free-throw attempts for a 50-49 advantage.

The Redskins (5-14) had possession for a little more than a minute down by one. Big Red (16-6) then showed its strength with multiple blocks and pressure defense, regaining possession with 46 seconds left. It was able to wind the clock down to 10.7 showing before Sawyer’s heroics.

“The way we played in our last couple of games was a team that I expected to see in our first game. When we had an opening, we scheduled (Big Red) twice because we definitely wanted to play maybe the best team in our district and show how good we are,” Creek head coach Joe Dunlevy said. “Where we’re at now is where I thought we would be at the beginning of the season.

“Am I proud of my kids? I’ve been proud of them all year. They played hard, represented themselves and everyone sitting behind them as great examples to their school, and they played for each other.”

Big Red ended the opening quarter on a 10-2 scoring run and led, 16-8, going into the second. There it outscored the Redskins by five and led, 34-21, at halftime.

The third quarter was an ugly mess that resulted in seven Steubenville fouls. Creek barely took advantage and trailed by 12 (40-28) to begin the fourth.

“We kept telling them it was time to have a sense of urgency because we’re going to go out if we don’t,” Dunlevy said. “They finally realized what they could do against good players, and that’s why I want to start the season over because of how they played.”

The entire fourth was utilized as an eight-minute, 18-6 scoring run by Creek. The upset truly became a possibility when the Redskins trailed, 42-41, with 2:46 left following a Mitch Williams 3-pointer that hit the side of the rim, popped in the air and swished through the net.

A Brenton Jones put-back with 48.9 seconds showing put Big Red ahead, 46-43. Then, at the 20-second mark, Williams found Kuczykowski in the right corner, and he nailed the 3 to tie the game.

Steubenville then had three opportunities to end it, but Hill’s first shot was blocked, followed by a pair of short jumpers that hit the front of the rim.

“We always talk about the first three minutes of the third quarter. We were up 13 and wanted to get it up to 18 or 20 and to not let them get it into single digits within those first three minutes,” Haney said. “We had times where we could’ve scored but threw the ball away and missed shots.

“We ended the quarter up 12, but it wasn’t a good 12. That carried over to the fourth.”

Sawyer concluded his night with 15 points, three rebounds and two assists. Hill had nine points, four boards and three dimes. Jones also scored nine points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds. Chase Zimmerman added six points and solid on-ball defense.

“We settled for some outside shots and didn’t get enough offensive rebounds,” Haney said. “They were able to get some easy looks and stole the ball a couple of times for easy buckets. They really did a good job of boxing out. They limited our offensive rebounds, which we usually do a good job in.

“A win’s a win, and that’s what we told our guys. It’s hard to beat a team three times (in one season). We know what they do, and they know what we do. It’s a big rivalry.”

A rare stat showed Big Red was outrebounded, 29-27. Creek committed 22 turnovers and finished 11 of 20 from the foul line. Steubenville coughed it up 19 times and went 7 of 11 from the charity stripe.

Vandine concluded his high school career with a double-double (18 points and 15 rebounds), while shooting 7 of 8 at the foul line. Kuczykowski had 11 points, three boards and a game-high six assists. Williams produced eight points, two rebounds and two dimes.

Along with Vandine, Saturday marked the end for Michael Kuczykowski and Wright.

“All three of them had went through a lot of adversity this year. Michael played (Saturday) on not one but two bad ankles. He’s always given us everything he’s got and is just a tough kid. Those three seniors are just great teammates,” Dunlevy said.

UP NEXT

Steubenville tentatively will host ninth-seeded Cambridge at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a sectional semifinal.

“Cambridge likes to run up and down the court. They have some big guys and pound it inside. They also can shoot the 3. Our defense has to be sound, and we’ll have to fly around,” Haney said.

Steubenville 52, Indian Creek 49 (OT)

Indian Creek 8 13 7 18 3 — 49

Steubenville 16 18 6 6 6 — 52

INDIAN CREEK (5-14): L. Kuczykowski 4 1-2 11; Williams 2 3-4 8; Morelli 0 0-2 0; Vandine 4 7-8 18; Schaffer 2 0-2 4; Wright 1 0-2 2; M. Kuczykowski 2 0-0 6; Francis 0 0-0 0; Pownall 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 15, 11-20: 49.

STEUBENVILLE (16-6): Sawyer 6 2-2 15; Gresko 0 0-0 0; Hill 3 2-3 9; Jones 4 1-2 9; McCoy 2 0-0 4; Zimmerman 2 2-3 6; Buggs 4 0-1 7; Rook 0 0-0 0; Jackson 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 21, 7-11: 52.

3-POINT GOALS: Indian Creek 8 (L. Kuczykowski 2, Williams, Vandine 3, M. Kuczykowski 2); Steubenville 3 (Sawyer, Hill, Buggs). REBOUNDS: Indian Creek 29 (Vandine 15); Steubenville 27 (Jones 11). ASSISTS: Indian Creek 11 (L. Kuczykowski 6); Steubenville 10 (Hill 3). TURNOVERS: Indian Creek 22; Steubenville 19.

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