ELYRIA — Sometimes even the ugliest of games have the most memorable endings.
Such was the case Saturday night at Open Door Christian School, where points were at a premium for the host Patriots and visiting Oberlin Phoenix.
Open Door took a one-point lead on Danny Stintsman’s 3-point play with 2:11 remaining, and it appeared that might hold up.
But Oberlin junior Dante LaRiccia rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Malcolm Allen with time winding down and calmly laid it back in just before the final horn sounded, giving his Phoenix a hard-fought 38-37 non-conference victory.
The win snapped a five-game losing streak for Oberlin (5-11), while Open Door fell to 4-10.
There was some confusion after LaRiccia’s basket. Oberlin coach Kurt Russell and the rest of the Phoenix mobbed LaRiccia at the other end of the floor after he sprinted up the floor victoriously. However, the three officials made a wave-off gesture just before sprinting off the court.
After what seemed like an eternity, Open Door athletic director Matt Blandin came back with the explanation that they had waved off Patriots coach Todd Wright’s attempt at a timeout, and that the basket counted.
“That was a classic ending,” Russell said. “First of all, give Open Door credit. I thought they played an excellent ballgame. Our team’s been really struggling lately, so we really needed something to give us some confidence. We were down by six points with three minutes to go, and I thought we showed some composure for the first time this season in coming back from that deficit.
“The kids really deserved this victory tonight. Dante usually starts for us, but I thought we could put a fire in the belly of some of the older kids if we started our three freshmen. Dante was in the right spot at the right time. He made a heads-up play, and we’ll take the victory.”
The final sequence began with eight seconds remaining, after an Allen 3-point attempt went out of bounds off an Open Door player. The ball was inbounded under the basket and made its way back to Allen at the top of the key.
Allen fired a 3-pointer with about three seconds left, but it glanced off the rim to the right. LaRiccia was camped out under the hoop without a Patriot defender near him. The ball went right to him, and it swished through the net with about a tenth of a second remaining.
The buzzer-beater, LaRiccia’s first, gave him seven points.
“It feels really good, but I’ve got to thank my teammates,” LaRiccia said. “They were the only reason we were in that situation. But it feels really good to help my team win a game.
“I was just trying to be around the basket. I knew one of my other teammates was going to try and put up a shot, and I was just hoping to be there if there was a miss. Luckily, I was in the right spot at the right time.”
Both teams had opportunities to take the lead or gain some separation during the final two minutes. Oberlin’s David Payne missed a pair of free throws with 1:58 remaining, and Open Door’s Jamir Moultrie missed the front end of a one-and-one with 27.6 seconds remaining.
The Phoenix fought back from a 34-28 deficit with four minutes remaining with an 8-0 run. A 3-pointer by LaRiccia with 2:22 left capped the run and gave Oberlin a 36-34 lead. But Stintsman was fouled while making a layup on the Patriots’ subsequent trip, and the junior’s free throw put the Patriots in front.
A key loss for Open Door down the stretch was 6-foot-4 junior Andrew Patterson. He led Open Door with 11 points and added six rebounds, but fouled out with 1:58 remaining. His presence underneath was definitely missed, especially during the final 20 seconds.
“I told my guys in the locker room that they didn’t play a bad game,” Wright said. “It wasn’t a perfect game — it was ugly at times — but (Oberlin) made a shot at the end. Give Oberlin all the credit in the world. They stayed after it on those two rebounds and made a play. That says a lot about them.
“I thought our guys battled. We really had some kids step up that don’t normally get a lot of playing time. So I’m very proud of them and happy for them.”
Both teams struggled shooting. Oberlin was held to 27 percent (14-of-52) from the floor, while Open Door was at 32 percent (14-of-44). The Phoenix forced Open Door into 26 turnovers and had the Patriots in foul trouble the entire game.
Oberlin held a 19-18 lead at halftime, but the Patriots came back to take a 30-28 lead after three quarters. A baseline jumper by Moultrie capped an 8-0 run and put the Patriots up by six with 3:51 remaining.
Lewis led Oberlin with 12 points, while Allen added seven. Cory Kushinski, making his first start of the season for Open Door, led everyone with nine rebounds.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Oberlin 38, Open Door 37
OBERLIN (38): Charles Lewis 5-1-12, Marvin Jackson 2-2-6, David Payne 1-1-3, Zion Hicks 1-0-2, Donald Johnson 0-1-1, Dante LaRiccia 3-0-7, Malcolm Allen 2-2-7, Jae’Lin Moore 0-0-0. Totals 14-7-38.
OPEN DOOR (37): Andrew Patterson 4-3-11, Danny Stintsman 2-2-6, Drew Zaborowski 2-0-5, Caleb Crowder 1-0-3, Cory Kushinski 1-0-2, Zach Thomas 2-0-5, Will Lovett 1-0-3, Jamir Moultrie 1-0-2, J.P. Miraldi 0-0-0. Totals 14-5-37.
Oberlin 8 11 9 10 — 38
Open Door 12 6 12 7 — 37
Three-point goals: Oberlin 3-18 (Lewis, LaRiccia, Allen), Open Door 4-13 (Crowder, Lovett, Zaborowski, Thomas); Field goals: Oberlin 14-52 (27 percent), Open Door 14-44 (32 percent); Free throws: Oberlin 7-17 (41 percent), Open Door 5-9 (56 percent); Rebounds: Oberlin 35 (Four with 5), Open Door 41 (Kushinski 9); Turnovers: Oberlin 16, Open Door 26; Total fouls: Oberlin 14, Open Door 17; Fouled out: Patterson.
Junior varsity: Open Door, 51-42.