AMHERST — North Ridgeville coach Bryan Morgan finally had a reason to smile, as the Rangers did to Amherst what so many teams have done to them. They won a game at the end.
Demario McCall put back a Collin Sullinger miss with less than a second to go Wednesday to pull out a 63-62 Division I sectional tournament win.
“We deserved this one,” Morgan said. “After the way the first 22 games went for us, we deserved one like this.”
The end was reminiscent of the game Friday against Vermilion, when the Rangers (6-17) led most of the way only to lose on a putback with less than a second left.
The Rangers took a 43-41 lead into the fourth quarter and stretched it to 53-47 with four minutes to go. Tyler Arnold came off the bench and gave the Rangers some needed offense, scoring seven of his 10 points in the quarter.
Garrett Klekota led an Amherst run with two 3-pointers and another basket to close the Rangers’ lead to 59-55 with 1:49 left.
A layup by McCall stretched the lead back to 61-55.
The Comets (11-12) weren’t done, as Reese Rua scored two baskets and Adam Srnis hit a 3-pointer to give the Comets a 62-61 lead with 13.5 seconds left.
Morgan took a timeout to set the play for the offense, but Sullinger’s shot came up short. Fortunately for the Rangers, McCall was able to corral the ball and put it back in for the winner.
“I felt good about putting in that putback,” McCall said. “We came in here and worked our butts off. Our defense kept us in the game and our offense had to step up.
“That was a big play I made at the end of the game. Coach told us it wasn’t going to be an easy game, that it was going to be a dogfight, so we came in here knowing what we had to do.”
Jordan Montgomery had the kind of game Morgan has been looking for from him all season, as he consistently drove to the basket, drawing fouls and making a couple of almost impossible layups. He finished with a game-high 21 points and was 8-of-8 from the free throw line.
“My coach told me he needed me to step up tonight,” Montgomery said. “We shoot free throws every day in practice. I came in with the attitude I wanted to win so we can play St. Ignatius.”
The Rangers will travel to St. Ignatius on Saturday to try to keep their postseason going.
“I’ve been waiting for one of these for 23 games,” Morgan said. “I’m so proud of our kids to overcome what happened Friday night. I challenged them after that game when they got off the bus. I looked at all 15 of them and said, ‘If you want the season to continue, I want you to show up Monday.’ All 15 showed up and practiced their butts off for two days and not once did I see any hesitation that they didn’t want the season to go on. I’m so proud of them to have the character to pull through that.”
Amherst defeated North Ridgeville 49-42 early in January, but this night it was a different story.
“We did a very poor job of boxing out and it killed us at the end,” Amherst coach John Srnis said. “We didn’t stop penetration. We knew Montgomery was going to penetrate and we did a poor job of stopping him from penetrating. They scored 63 points and he scored 21 of them. We just didn’t do a very good job tonight.”
Contact Ron Nenadal at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
North Ridgeville 63 Amherst 62
NORTH RIDGEVILLE (63): Jordan Montgomery 6-8-21, Tyler Arnold 4-0-10, Matt Clark 2-0-6, Demario McCall 3-0-6, Dennis Millgard 3-0-6, Nolan Freeman 2-0-4, Nathan Colbert 2-1-5, Collin Sullinger 1-0-2, Chad Kisel 1-0-3, Tyler Rowe 0-0-0. Totals 24-9-63.
AMHERST (62): Garrett Klekota 7-0-19, Reese Rua 6-0-12, Adam Srnis 5-0-13, Danny Fortney 3-1-8, Antonio Serrano 3-0-6, Matt Kneisel 1-0-2, Casey McConhie 1-0-2. Totals 26-1-62.
North Ridgeville 10 17 16 20 — 63
Amherst 17 11 13 21 — 62
Three-point goals: North Ridgeville 6-19 (31 percent); Amherst 9-21 (43 percent). Field goals: North Ridgeville 19-32 (59 percent); Amherst 19-25 (76 percent). Free throws: North Ridgeville 9-13 (69 percent); Amherst 1-4 (25 percent). Rebounds: North Ridgeville 26 (Freeman 8, Millgard 6); Amherst 18 (Fortney 5, Rua 5). Turnovers: North Ridgeville 10, Amherst 8. Total fouls: North Ridgeville 7, Amherst 13.