Sutton gym drama: Hill’s last-second triple helps MHS top Frontier

For 31 minutes and 58 seconds of basketball, Corey Hill had one of those games to forget.

In a matter of 1.9 seconds that night to forget become one that the Marietta Tiger junior will remember forever as he connected on a jump shot from 25-feet away at the buzzer to give the Tigers a thrilling 46-45 victory over the Frontier Cougars at Sutton Gymnasium Saturday night.

The game-winning triple was the only basket of the night for the usually sharp-shooting Hill who misfired on all eight shot attempts prior to the game-winner.

After Frontier’s Rodney Barnes broke a 43-43 tie with a drive to the basket and a finish with the left hand with just 2.7 seconds left on the clock it appeared that the Cougars would pull off the upset victory and spoil senior night for the Tigers.

The Tigers called a quick timeout and with an additional timeout left fired the ball to the half court line to Braden Riley who immediately called another timeout with just 1.9 seconds left on the clock.

While nearly everyone inside Sutton Gymnasium looked for the ball to go to Riley to try and tie the game up, the Tigers fired a curveball as Connor Beavers inbounded the ball to Hill well beyond the top of the key.

Hill’s contested long jumper was nothing but net as the buzzer sounded and the Tiger student section raced onto the floor to celebrate the victory.

“I’ve really been struggling shooting from the field and my teammates picked me up and told me I could do it,” said Hill. “Coach Duck (Mark Duckworth) made a great play call and drew it up and told me to buckle down and hit it. I just put it up and let it fly and it went in.”

Duckworth said there was never any doubt in his mind to try and go for three instead of the tie in the final seconds.

“Our philosophy was to get the ball to half court and use our last timeout and then run a side out of bounds play to win the game,” said Duckworth. “The whole time we were going for the win. It was a play that we practiced many, many times that we call it city and Corey came up big and hit the shot for us.”

The Cougars, fresh off of a big sectional tournament win the night before over Toronto in New Philadelphia, controlled the game for the first half as they led by as many as 10 points and went into intermission with a 20-14 lead.

Riley closed the lead to four to open the second half with an inside score but Damon Metheney answered for the Cougars with a three-ball to extend the lead back to seven.

The Tigers had a definite height advantage over the Cougars, and Riley and Zach LaBarre scored back-to-back inside buckets to cut the lead to three.

Once again the powder blue and gold had an answer from long range as this time senior Drew Schneider connected to push the lead back to 26-20.

LaBarre pulled down eight boards in the game including an offensive rebound and putback bucket to trim the lead to four.

With Hill struggling with his shot, Tiger guard Dillon Sturm became more aggressive from the perimeter and it paid off for the orange and black in a big way as the senior drilled a pair of treys in the final minute of the third quarter to close the Cougar lead to 31-29.

Nick Camino opened the final quarter with a field goal on a nice assist from Jake Bradford to push the lead back to four but the Tigers kept things within striking distance and finally pulled even at 37-37 on a Jonathan Wood basket with an assist from Riley with a little more than three minutes to play.

Barnes, who led the Cougars in scoring with 17, nine of which came in the final quarter, drove strong to the basket over the Tiger twin towers to once again put the Cougars in front, and after Riley converted on one-of-two free throws at the other end, Schneider buried his second triple of the game to stretch the lead to 42-38.

Beavers brought the Tigers back to within one with a huge three-ball before Barnes sank one-of two freebies to make it a 43-41 game with 1:17 to play.

Wood quickly answered for the Tigers on the other end as he connected from 10-feet away to once again knot the score at 43-43.

Frontier worked the clock down for what it hoped would be the final shot and Barnes came through in a big way as he drove strong with his left hand and finished over the much taller Wood to send the Cougar faithful into a frenzy.

The Tigers were not to be denied on a night where they honored their four seniors, thanks to Hill’s heroics.

“They ran a double screen and we got a hand in his face, he just made the shot,” said Frontier head coach Roger Kirkpatrick. “I thought our kids played hard and it took a buzzer-beater for them to beat us at their place so I am proud of our kids.”

Riley led the way for the Tigers as he tallied yet another double-double by hauling down a game-high 10 rebounds to go along with 17 points, while Wood and Sturm both added seven points apiece.

Barnes dished out four assists in addition to his 17 points, while Schneider, Camino and Metheney each finished with eight.

Duckworth had high praise after the game for Riley, Beavers, Sturm, and Adam Gearhart, each of whom played their final prep game at Sutton Gymnasium.

“I have a lot of respect for all four seniors. They are all great students and I couldn’t ask for a better group of four seniors to try to set the tone for our Marietta program and what we want in the future,” said Duckworth. “They are quality young men and they are going to be successful wherever they go and whatever they do.”

The first-year Tiger coach was quite impressed with the performance of the Cougars, a team the Tigers defeated with ease (59-43) earlier in the season in New Matamoras.

“Frontier played extremely hard and my hat is off to them,”said Duckworth. “They had a great win last night and brought that momentum in here tonight and I wish them the best in their sectional final.”

While the Tigers finished their season with a 10-13 record, Kirkpatrick’s Cougars still have more games to play including a pair of makeup games and a second-round tournament match-up Friday night in New Philadelphia against top seed Berlin-Hiland.

“They are very good. We will have to play extremely well to compete,” said Kirkpatrick.

“We will go and play hard and give it our best shot.”