A 14-point deficit at halftime Friday and a nail-biter Saturday tested the Phoenix boys basketball team on every level.
Oberlin came away with two wins against the Firelands Falcons and Cuyahoga Heights.
The boys topped Cuyahoga Heights 46-43 after scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter and holding their opponent to nine points to secure the win.
Oberlin’s Donald Johnson and Zion Hicks combined for 25 points, 10 rebounds, and five steals to lead their team to their fourth win of the season.
The Phoenix took an early 14-12 lead over Cuyahoga Heights, then fell short in the second and third quarters, trailing 34-32 to start the final period.
“We had a very difficult time shooting,” said Oberlin head coach Kurt Russell. “That has been a problem all year. Offensively we didn’t play too well.”
The boys recovered, sinking 14 points to secure their fourth victory of the season.
Sophomore Justin Smith sank the game-winning shot versus the Falcons in overtime Friday, making it 50-49 with under a minute to play.
Smith led the Phoenix on both ends of the court with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and four steals.
“He’s young but he’s athletic,” Russell said. “He could be a match-up nightmare for some teams with the way he’s built.”
Oberlin struggled to stop Firelands’ Colin Myers, who scored 20 points by halftime,when the Phoenix trailed 33-19.
Russell called the half “unbelievable” for Myers’ hot streak. He changed up the Oberlin defense in the second half and constantly had a player applying pressure in Myers’ face.
Russell said his game plan in the second half was for the boys to cut lead to 10 points going into the final quarter and then make a run to finish the game.
“We thought we had a chance to come back but I didn’t think it would be that soon,” he said. “We played so well in the third quarter that we actually took the lead.”
The Phoenix held the Falcons to two points in the third quarter as they added 17 points and took a 36-35 lead.
Firelands matched Oberlin shot for shot in the final period, sending the game into overtime at 46-46.
“I’m just so proud of the boys and how they responded to adversity, which we have been trying to preach all year,” Russell said.
The boys improved to 4-2 on the season and 2-1 in the Patriot Athletic Conference.
Russell is focused on improving his team’s zone offense for the games this week. “Each game gets harder and harder,” he said.
Oberlin will host the Columbia Raiders at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the high school.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.
Photos by Valerie Urbanik | Oberlin News-Tribune
Firelands’ Colin Myers takes a shot over Oberlin’s Donald Johnson.