Rayen snaps losing streak
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Rayen High assistant principal Dan Smith had a good feeling about Tuesday's game against Chaney.
"Write this down," Smith said. "We're gonna win tonight."
He was right -- and by the end of the game, just about everyone in Rayen's gymnasium had a good feeling.
The Tigers outscored visiting Chaney 9-7 in overtime to pull off a 58-56 victory and snap a seven-game losing streak. Afterward, Rayen's fans spilled onto the floor and celebrated in a massive huddle with the Tigers.
"This is a great win for our program," Rayen coach Phil House said. "We've been down in the doldrums a little and we've lost some close games. But when things got tough, we didn't buckle."
Higgs pops 20: No one was more excited than Tiger junior Jamal Higgs. Higgs, who scored a team-high 20 points, had a chance to seal the game with six seconds left but missed two free throws to give Chaney one more chance.
But Cowboy junior Chris Childers' pass bounced off senior Anthony Vasko's hands and out of bounds with two seconds left, and Rayen (3-9, 2-4 City Series) ran out the clock.
"I was nervous," Higgs said. "The crowd was into it and the school loved it. It was just a happy moment."
Senior Roy Austin led Chaney (5-9, 2-4) with 23 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Childers added 14 points, five rebounds and four assists.
"They outplayed us in the second half," Cowboy coach Jim Stickel said. "We had some chances at the end but we just didn't execute."
In a slump: The Cowboys have lost nine of their last 11 games after starting the season 3-0.
"I don't know if you can shake off nine losses," Stickel said. "We've just gotta regroup."
Chaney raced out to a 13-4 lead after one quarter, and held a 21-9 lead with 4:51 left in the second quarter. But Rayen went on a 10-0 run to pull within 21-19 at halftime.
The two teams stayed close in the third quarter, and Chaney seemed to be in control when it went up 42-36 with 4:32 left in the game. But Rayen battled back, and the teams combined for three ties and two lead changes in the final two minutes.
Opportunity: Chaney had a chance to win it with 20 seconds left and the score tied at 49, but Vasko struggled to get past Higgs and missed a long jumper with three seconds left. Austin grabbed the rebound but couldn't get his shot to fall at the buzzer.
"This has been one of those seasons where we've been in a lot of close games," House said. "But this time we didn't make the horrendous mistakes at the end. Our defense came through for us."
Anthony Jones scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Tigers. Deshawn Crenshaw added 11 points.