BOYS DIVISION II Liberty topples Hubbard in OT
The Leopards won 71-66, while Rayen defeated Salem, 68-57.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- Joel Marshall wasn't afraid to admit that he was shaking with fear. The sophomore, though, made two free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining in regulation to save the Liberty High boys basketball team.
Marshall sank the two shots to force overtime and the Leopards had enough momentum to defeat Hubbard 71-66 Monday in the opening game of the Division II tournament at Boardman High.
Rayen, minus head coach Phil House, defeated Salem in the second game, 68-57.
Marshall mania: "He's probably the most improved player in the program," Liberty coach Burt Stellers said of Marshall. "To go to the line with those two seconds left and hit those free throws, that was critical."
The 6-foot-3 Marshall got his opportunity after Hubbard junior Jason Lenzi split a pair of free throws with 9.9 seconds remaining to put the Eagles ahead 53-51.
After a timeout, Liberty sophomore Joe Lopez inbounded the ball along the sideline, just past midcourt. Lopez passed the ball to Marshall, who was bumped by Hubbard junior Adam Jablonsky with 2.9 to play.
"We practiced all week running through the passes," Marshall said. "When I set the screen and came back, I knew [Jablonsky] was going to try to reach for it, so I just went through [the pass] all the way."
Hubbard coach Scott Grover said, "I will never question Adam Jablonsky's hustle or what he does. A lot of things he did earlier got us back into the game."
Mental battle: Marshall tried to relax for his one-and-one opportunity by thinking of all the practice shots he has taken at the Jewish Community Center.
"I was doing my best to calm my nerves," Marshall said.
Marshall made both of his shots to tie the score, and the game went to overtime after Hubbard senior Anthony Smith hit the corner of the rim on a desperation half-court shot at the buzzer.
Liberty took control of the overtime by scoring the first seven points, including an opening 3-pointer by Marshall, who finished with a game- and career-high 26 points.
"In overtime, we did a nice job of securing the glass," Stellers said. "We stressed that if we win the [play in the] paint, we'll win the game."
Sophomore Bradley Fletcher scored 20 points, while senior Jeff Schnall added 14 for the Leopards (6-15), who made 19-of-22 free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime, and 21-of-26 for the game.
Lenzi had a team-high 22 points for Hubbard (9-12), while senior Matt Smith added 20 and Anthony Smith 14 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks.
"We were our own worst enemy all night with shot selection, and Liberty forced us into that," said Grover, whose team was 23-of-67 (34 percent) from the field, including 9-of-31 from 3-point range.
Liberty will play second-seeded Niles at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Rayen-Salem: With House and his family on its mind, Rayen (4-15) pulled away from Salem (1-20) in the game's final minutes.
House's daughter, Evelyn, was injured during a gymnastics event in Columbus and underwent surgery Monday evening, interim head coach Floyd Showers said.
Details of the injury and its severity were not immediately known.
"He's staying with his family to make sure everything's OK," Rayen Principal Claude W. Bentley Jr. said of House, who drove to Columbus.
A former Rayen standout, Showers discovered late in the afternoon Monday that he would have to take over the team.
"I enjoy the challenge," Showers said. "[Coach House] was my coach, and he prepared me for situations like this."
Senior Anthony Jones totaled 19 points and 19 rebounds to direct Rayen into a sectional final Friday at 8 p.m. against third-seeded Ursuline.
"Our size was the key; we were able to get the ball inside," Showers said. "We didn't panic, and we kept our cool."
Scorers: Also contributing for the Tigers were junior Jamal Higgs (14 points), sophomore DeShawn Crenshaw (12) and senior William Jones (11).
"We had to pick it up for Coach House," Anthony Jones said. "I was thinking about him the whole time."
Senior Travis Mong poured in 30 points for Salem and senior Mike Bailey added 10.