They knocked off previously unbeaten Elyria 57-55 in the opening game of the 15th annual Lorain County Holiday Classic. It was a come-from-behind thriller in which Lorain trailed through most of the first half and six minutes into the third quarter.
Lorain, down 35-24 with nearly seven minutes left in the period, turned it around with a 17-3 rally that gave it a 39-38 lead with 1:09 to go.
In a struggle reminiscent of Lorain-Elyria thrillers in years gone by, the Pioneers (6-1) regained the lead and were seemingly in command 50-45 and 53-48 with just over three minutes left in the game.
But the handwriting was on the wall when Louis Cheers, Lorain’s 6-foot-5 senior forward, drove for a basket with 2:23 to go. He was fouled and converted the three-point play to pull the Titans within a point, 55-54.
That ended the scoring until the 5-10 Saunders got a kick-out pass from fellow sophomore Eddie Williamson and drilled the three that won it. His shot produced just the second win of the season for the Titans, who were 1-4 going in.
Saunders said it was a maneuver he and Williamson have worked on in practice.
“Coach said take the last shot, so with like 20 seconds left, I passed it to Eddie and I knew he would penetrate and kick it to me,” Saunders said. “So I slotted up, and when I (shot), I saw it go in. It was a good shot. I was happy.”
He also said the Titans’ sub-.500 record is deceptive.
“We got a good team and we’re gonna turn it around from here,” he said. “This is a big win. They were undefeated, but we came in and got the win. So we’re gonna turn it around and just keep playing hard.”
The victory sends Lorain into the classic championship at 7:30 tonight against host Avon Lake, which defeated Avon 48-35 in Friday night’s second game. Elyria and Avon meet in the consolation game at
In a bold move, Lorain coach Andy Bastock decided to play for the last shot with just under a minute left. He said he had originally hoped the Titans could work the ball inside for an easier basket.
“We’re 1-4, we’re playing an undefeated team and we’re down by one with a minute left and it was a lot like you hear the Browns fans yelling: ‘Hey, go for the touchdown,’” Bastock said. “So what do you have to lose? I thought at that point we had put ourselves in a good position to win and Sherman Saunders came up and hit a huge shot.
“It was a three, but we were actually looking to get it inside for a two,” he said. “But Sherman knows he has the green light. The kid shot it with confidence and he came up big for us.”
Bastock agreed the Titans’ record is deceptive. Among other things, star player Devon Andrews, a 6-4 sophomore, is sidelined with a health problem until Feb. 1, he said.
“So we’re playing a little shorthanded, plus we’ve played Cleveland Heights, then Bedford and Maple Heights got us by a point at their place,” Bastock said. “Lakewood’s a good team and I’d like to play them again right now, because I think we’re much more seasoned.”
Elyria coach Brett Larrick said he foresaw a tough night after a less-than-satisfactory practice Thursday.
“We told our guys this has been coming,” he said. “You don’t practice well, you don’t work on the things you’re supposed to and play our kind of basketball, these things happen and that’s what happened tonight.
“Give Lorain credit,” Larrick said. “That was a gutsy move going for the last shot, and it was a big shot. Give their kids credit for fighting. We had a 10-point lead in the third quarter, but their kids kept fighting.”
Saunders finished with a team-high 14 points, 12 in the second half, six each in the third and fourth quarters. Cheers and Andre Phillips, the Titans’ 5-10 senior guard, each scored 11 points.
Elyria held a hot hand outside the arc, making a season-high nine 3-pointers in a dozen attempts. Junior Isaiah Walton hit four of them, including two in the fourth quarter. The Pioneers got 12 points from senior Kody Bender, who faced the specter of a box-and-one Titans defense much of the night, and 10 by junior A.J. Johnson.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Lorain 57, Elyria 55
ELYRIA (55): Tavon Kurtz 2-0-4, Kody Bender 4-3-12, Hunter Parsh 1-0-3, Da’Jaun Glover 0-0-0, Dontae Dukes 2-1-6, Isaiah Walton 5-0-14, Jarred Schultz 0-0-0, Ronnie Smith 2-0-6, A.J. Johnson 5-0-10, Damon Steward 0-0-0. Totals 21-4-55.
LORAIN (57): Louis Cheers 5-1-11, Eddie Williamson 0-3-3, Andre Phillips 5-1-11, Demon Hisle 2-0-6, Andrew Ralston 0-0-0, Sherman Saunders 5-3-14, Gerald Howard 2-0-4, Rashod Berry 4-0-8. Totals 23-8-57.
Elyria 10 21 11 13 — 55
Lorain 6 17 18 16 — 57
Three-point goals: Elyria 9-12 (Walton 4, Smith 2, Bender, Parsh, Dukes), Lorain 3-6 (Hisle 2, Saunders). Field goals: Elyria 21-44 (47.7 percent), Lorain 23-41 (56.1 percent). Free throws: Elyria 4-9, Lorain 8-14. Rebounds: Elyria 19, Lorain 27. Turnovers: Elyria 13, Lorain 11.