EATON TWP. — For three quarters Tuesday night, Midview played about as perfect a basketball game as anyone could imagine.
The fourth quarter was a different story altogether.
With a 13-point lead — their largest of the game — heading into the fourth quarter, the Middies’ lead was cut to two twice in the final minute.
However, Midview converted three of four clutch free throws in the final 15 seconds, and that was the difference in a 59-56 West Shore Conference upset of Avon at Ed Kubuski Gymnasium.
To commemorate Senior Night in the final home game of the season, Middies coach Troy DiFranco started all four of his seniors — Patrick Geyser, Matt Briggs, J.J. Manning and Tyler Colangelo.
The strategy paid off as the Middies jumped out to a 16-12 lead after one quarter and kept building on it in the second and third.
Midview (9-8, 7-5) never trailed in the game.
“I’m really proud of those four seniors,” DiFranco said. “They come out in not our normal starting lineup, and they were ready to play.
“They set the tone for the game, and it was a nice way for those guys to go out in their last home game. I’m sure they’ll remember it for a long time.
“We got contributions from a lot of people. At different times in the game, different people stepped up. Avon’s a great team, and we knew they were going to make a run. But we were able to withstand the run and pull it out.”
With the loss and with three games remaining, Avon (12-6, 9-3) has essentially lost any chance of winning the WSC title. Despite the fourth-quarter rally, in which the Eagles outscored Midview 22-12, Avon coach Jim Baker was not happy with his team’s performance.
“I think we only played six minutes of good basketball tonight, and you can’t do that and expect to win,” he said. “We played with no enthusiasm in the first half defensively. We allowed too many offensive rebounds. In the third quarter, we allowed too much dribble penetration, layups, everything else.
“The fourth quarter, we kept people in front us, got into the passing lanes, and things happened. But we can’t wait until we’re down by 13 in the last quarter and then decide to be ready to play. (Midview) played harder than we did, that was all.”
Midview outscored Avon 31-22 over the second and third quarters to open a 47-34 lead. It appeared the Middies would have smooth sailing to the emotional win.
However, the Eagles — bolstered by senior R.J. Kauffman’s 12 fourth-quarter points (he finished with a game-high 21) and forcing five turnovers thanks to their full-court press — slowly began to chip away at the lead.
Avon scored six unanswered points to start the fourth and, capped by six unanswered points all off turnovers in the span of 34 seconds, used a 16-7 run to make it a 54-50 game with just two minutes remaining.
A big 3-pointer by Manning during the run temporarily halted Avon’s momentum and gave Midview a 52-44 lead with 3:44 remaining.
“J.J. Manning’s 3-pointer – his only points of the game, and they probably were the biggest,” DiFranco said. “That, when you look at it, was probably one of the biggest baskets of the game, especially since it was while they were making their run. It was huge.”
A Patrick Linn putback pushed Midview’s lead back to six inside of the two-minute mark, but a pair of free throws by Marvin Coleman and a layup by Kauffman made it a 56-54 game with 41.8 seconds remaining.
Junior Riley Moore missed the front-end of a one-and-one with 1:00 remaining, but Midview’s leading scorer would get another chance.
After Ryan Carge got a steal off a Midview inbounds pass, the Eagles missed three layups that would have tied the game. Moore finally grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 29.8 seconds remaining. The 54-percent free throw shooter calmly sank both tosses to bump Midview’s lead back to four.
“Honestly, I tried not to think about too much in that situation,” said Moore, who finished with 13 points and six rebounds. “The first free throw try, I was caught up thinking about the situation way too much, and I think it cost me. When I got that second chance, I just blocked everything else out of my mind and just focused on knocking them down. Once I made the first one, I was confident that I’d knock them both down.”
Kauffman answered right back with a layup to cut the deficit back to two with 22.9 seconds remaining, and Eddie Brezina missed the front-end of a one-and-one with 15 seconds remaining to give Avon another chance.
However, Claude Gray had a shot blocked out of bounds with 6.1 seconds remaining, and Coleman missed a pair of free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining that would have tied the score.
Linn salted the game away by splitting a pair of free throws with 0.7 left on the clock, and the jubilant Middie student section stormed the court to celebrate the victory.
“When we turned it over three straight times, I pulled one of the kids over and just said, ‘Just start laughing,’” DiFranco said. “You could tell they were tense at that point, and I tried to break that pressure a little bit. You’ve just got to relax, go out there and make a play. And we made just enough.”
Gray added 14, while Coleman had 13 for the Eagles. Brezina came off the bench to score 11, while Geyser and Arlington McClinton scored eight each for the Middies.
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Midview 59, Avon 56
AVON (56): R.J. Kauffman 8-4-21, Claude Gray 5-4-14, Marvin Coleman 4-5-13, Mike Maloney 0-1-1, Alex Isaac 0-0-0, Ryan Poyle 2-1-5, Ryan Ladegaard 0-2-2, Connor Friss 0-0-0, Ryan Carge 0-0-0, Matt Haney 0-0-0, Nate Penman 0-0-0, Nick Redilla 0-0-0. Totals 19-17-56.
MIDVIEW (59): Riley Moore 5-2-13, Patrick Geyser 3-0-8, J.J. Manning 1-0-3, Tyler Colangelo 1-0-2, Matt Briggs 1-0-2, Eddie Brezina 5-0-11, Arlington McClinton 4-0-8, Patrick Linn 3-1-7, Mike Snoddy 0-2-2, Justin Morris 1-0-2, Ryan Mains 0-1-1. Totals 28-6-59.
Avon 12 9 13 22 — 56
Midview 16 12 19 12 — 59
Three-point goals: Avon 1-6 (Kauffman), Midview 5-15 (Geyser 2, Brezina, Manning, Moore). Field goals: Avon 19-51 (38 percent), Midview 28-56 (50 percent). Free throws: Avon 17-23 (74 percent), Midview 6-11 (55 percent). Rebounds: Avon 28 (Gray 7, Kauffman 6, Coleman 6), Midview 40 (Linn 8, Moore 6, McClinton 6). Turnovers: Avon 9, Midview 13. Junior varsity: Avon, 68-24.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.