PIQUA – Wow!
There isn’t a much better way to describe the ending of the Division IV sectional semifinal match between Ansonia and Botkins on Tuesday night at Piqua’s Garbry Gym.
With 1.7 seconds left, the Tigers were trailing Botkins by one, but had an in-bounds play underneath their own basket for one last chance. The play was a lob to senior Hunter Muir, who caught the in-bounds pass which nearly went over his head, took one dribble and put up a shot that fell through the net as time expired giving Ansonia a wild 37-36 victory.
“I just knew in my head we had 1.7 seconds left,” Muir said after a long celebration with his teammates. “The plan was if they were going to double me I was going to tip it back to (Matthew) Farrier, but they kind of doubled it so far over that I couldn’t get the tip because it was all the way on the backside so I just caught it.
“I had a mental countdown in my head and when it got close I just threw it up there,” he continued. “I didn’t even really look at the rim. I had no clue where the rim was. I just put it up and it went in.”
The Tigers (14-10) tried to hold off a fourth quarter rally by the Trojans, but just couldn’t stop Spencer Heuker, who scored 12 of his game-high 19 points in the final frame. The fourth period opened with Ansonia ahead 27-22, but Heuker cut that lead to three immediately with a bucket at the 7:33 mark. A minute later Muir hit a pair of free throws to go up 29-24 and then Andrew Rowland got a putback basket to make it 31-24 for the largest lead of the game to that point by either team. Heuker scored again at 5:23 to make it a five-point margin (31-26), but then Hunter Buckingham hit his third 3-pointer of the night to give the Tigers a little more breathing room at 34-26, the single largest lead by either team at 8 points.
From there, Heuker took over. He scored the next 7 consecutive points – 5 of them on free throws – bringing his team back to within one point at 34-33 with 3:53 still to play. Zane Paul then got a deuce to put Botkins back in the lead 35-34 for the first time since early in the second quarter. Muir then hit the front end of two free throws to tie the game at 35-35.
Then, things got a little crazy. With five seconds left, Heuker sank the second of two free throws for a 36-35 lead. Ansonia had time to go the length of the court for one final chance, but at half court a desperate heave to the basket fell short and went out of bounds giving Botkins possession and seemingly the victory. However, as they in-bounded the ball the player receiving the in-bounds stepped on the baseline to turn the ball back over to Ansonia with 1.7 seconds left on the clock. That’s when Muir worked his magic.
“It was a big time shot from a great player,” Ansonia coach Devin Limburg said. “All year the message has been to be mentally tough to withstand a run and what any team throws at us. I told the kids they grew up tonight. They grew up a lot. We went up by 8, but the Heuker kid started dominating us a little bit, but we were just able to answer right back and got that big shot from Muir.
“Hunter’s shot is not exactly what we drew up,” he continued. “It was a lob for him and the pass went a little long and he was able to catch it and make something out of it. This is a huge win for us.”
“I feel like this is one of the biggest wins of my career ever,” Muir said. “I’ve never had a game-winning shot and we finally came to this big game and I went 11-of-12 from the free throw line. That is unreal for me. I just don’t do that. Then it came down to the game on the line and I was able to hit the touch shot. It was just crazy.”
Muir led the Tigers with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Buckingham was next with 9 points, all on three triples. Joining Heuker in double figures for the Trojans was Jayden Priddy with 10.
“These guys wanted this win so bad,” Limburg said. “Last year, (Fort) Loramie knocked us out in the sectional final so we were itching to get back and hopefully get some revenge there.”
Ansonia will get its chance at revenge as Fort Loramie won the second game of the evening 55-35 over Riverside. The Tigers and Redskins will battle beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday night for the sectional title at Piqua.
“Friday is going to be a big game,” Muir said. “I hope everyone comes out like they did tonight. It was packed in here.”
Score by quarters
Ansonia – Matthew Farrier 1 2 4, Hunter Buckingham 3 0 9, Hunter Muir 3 11 17, Andrew Rowland 2 1 5, Reece Stammen 1 0 2. Totals: 10 14 37.
Botkins – Zane Paul 2 0 5, Spencer Heuker 6 7 19, Jacob Pleiman 1 0 2, Jayden Priddy 4 0 10. Totals: 13 7 36.
3-pointers – Ansonia 3 (Buckingham 3), Botkins 3 (Priddy 2, Paul 1).
Records: Ansonia (14-10), Botkins (11-12).
The Daily Advocate sports editor Skip Weaver can be reached at (937) 569-4316 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter at @skipweaver65.