SHEFFIELD TWP. — With his longtime mentor and his son on the bench, Clearview’s John Szalay couldn’t have asked for a better night to get his 300th coaching win in his 23rd season.
It was one of the best-kept secrets until Clearview rallied to beat Amherst 58-55 to reach the milestone Friday night. Athletic director Mike Collier presented Szalay with a plaque after the game.
“I didn’t tell the kids or anything,” Szalay said. “Chad (his son) knew and I think he told the kids. They didn’t say much but they knew in school (Friday). I’m very humbled by it because I grew up watching some of the greatest coaches in the state of Ohio — Coach (Bob) Walsh, coach (Mitch) Gillam (Admiral King), coach (Jim) Lawhead (Lorain Catholic), coach (Dale) Reichert, the late coach at Lorain, and (Bob) Guinta (Elyria Catholic) and all those guys.
“For them, 300 was nothing. I’m humbled by the opportunity. I’ve been blessed with a school district that allowed me the opportunity. I’m very lucky.”
“It’s very special,” said Walsh, who coached Szalay when the Clippers won the state title in 1974 and returned to Clearview as an assistant this season. “I’m very fortunate to be here, No. 1. N0. 2, I’m enjoying every minute of it.”
“As a father, as a coach, you name it,” said Chad Szalay, who played for his dad and is now an assistant. “He’s the one I look up to. He’s my man. To be under him and Rob Collier and Coach Walsh, I’m like a sponge, just taking it all in.”
“The whole team was talking about it before the game,” Clippers senior Gerrell Williams said.
It didn’t come easily. The Clippers trailed just about the entire first half as Amherst did a good job moving the ball and finding the open man. The Comets hit their shots the first half (15-of-25 including eight-of-13 3-pointers). Adam Srnis hit four of his five threes in the first half.
“We were not going to get in a 3-point contest with Amherst,” Szalay said. “They have too many good shooters. I just think we got a few more stops and I noticed as we got to the third and fourth quarters, the floor opened up and we were getting numbers down the floor. It allowed us to hit the boards. We had an advantage down there.”
Amherst built a 43-35 lead with 5:15 left in the third quarter when Rees Rua rebounded his own miss for a basket. But the Comets gave up nine unanswered points with Williams’ 3-pointer giving Clearview its first lead (44-43) since early in the second quarter.
Clearview had the height advantage and took advantage of it as the game played out. Jason Young had 13 rebounds, Daimon Knowles 10 and Williams eight to outboard the Comets by themselves. Amherst’s tallest player, Danny Fortner, has been sidelined by injury.
The Clippers led 47-46 going to the final quarter and the game see-sawed from there until Young hit a turnaround jump shot in the lane with 33 seconds left to set up the final sequence. Amherst, after hitting its first four free throws, missed its last two.
With Clearview leading 56-55, Amherst called consecutive timeouts at 26.3 and 16.3 to set up a final chance. Rua’s 3-pointer from the top of the circle rolled out and Klekota wisely fouled Iben Huff with 11 seconds to go.
Huff missed, Amherst got the rebound and Srnis called another timeout with 5.3 seconds remaining but the Comets had exhausted their supply. Daimon Knowles hit the front end of the two-shot technical foul and Williams, who finished with a game-high 28 points, salted it away by sinking the first of a one-and-one on the subsequent possession leaving the clock running from just 4.3 seconds.
“That’s a dumb play by me and I pride myself in doing things the right way,” said Srnis of the technical. “I usually know how many timeouts I have. I thought I heard we had one. That’s inexcusable. That’s just stupid basketball.”
Garrett Klekota entered the game just 21 points shy of breaking the late Morris Braun’s 70-year old Amherst career scoring mark of 982 points. Klekota scored nine of his 14 points in the fourth.
Clearview 58, Amherst 55
AMHERST (55): Adam Srnis 5-0-15, Antonio Serrano 1-1-3, Rees Rua 7-0-16, Anthony Eliopoulos 1-0-2, Garrett Klekota 4-3-14, Casey McConihe 2-0-5, Shane Derricotte 0-0-0. Totals 20-4-55.
CLEARVIEW (58): Gerrell Williams 11-4-28, Iben Huff 1-0-3, Eric Burkey 3-2-9, Jason Young 5-0-10, Daimon Knowles 3-1-8, Maliek Ivey 0-0-0, Lance Billings 0-0-0, Caleb Branscum 0-0-0. Totals 23-7-58.
Amherst 20 18 8 9 — 55
Clearview 17 15 15 11 — 58
Three-point goals: Amherst 11-20 (Srnis 5, Klekota 3, Rua 2, McConihe), Clearview 5-15 (Williams 2, Huff, Burkey Knowles). Field goals: Amherst 20-50 (40 percent), Clearview 23-45 (51 percent). Free throws: Amherst 4-6 (66 percent), Clearview 7-14 (50 percent). Rebounds: Amherst 26 (Serrano, Rua 7), Clearview 41 (Young 13). Turnovers: Amherst 9, Clearview 15. Fouls: Amherst 11, Clearview 8. Technical Foul: Amherst bench.
Junior varsity: Amherst, 48-36