United's late rally completes upset over Columbiana
Golden Eagles' Jimmy Phillis hit the go-ahead basket in the 62-59 victory.
By ERIC HAMILTON
HANOVERTON -- United Local's Jimmy Phillis claims he knew the shot was going in the second he let it go. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't.
Either way, it doesn't change the fact that his 3-pointer with 14 seconds left finished off a scintillating 14-4 run that sparked the Golden Eagles to a thrilling 62-59 upset of ITCL Tier One co-leader Columbiana on Friday.
"It felt good when it left my hands," said Phillis of the shot that gave United a 60-59 lead. "It was just instinct. I caught the ball, squared up and shot it. It's the biggest shot I've ever hit."
If it weren't for the determination of his teammates, Phillis would never have had the opportunity to play hero.
United trailed by nine (55-46) with 3:30 remaining. With the Golden Eagles struggling offensively, a comeback looked like a long shot.
That's when United (6-5, 4-3 ITCL) turned up its defensive pressure. Junior Bill Prosko was the catalyst, scoring off a steal and converting a free throw to get the Eagles within 57-53 with 1:42 remaining.
Prosko was fouled on a shot attempt and canned a pair of charity tosses to cut the deficit to 57-55 with 1:08 left.
Columbiana (7-4, 5-2) got single foul shots from Cory Guy and Josh Weikart to hang on to a 59-57 advantage with 31 seconds left.
But on its next possession, United patiently worked the ball around for a good shot. The Eagles got the look they wanted, as Phillis fired from the top of the key and drained the triple and give the Eagles a 60-59 lead -- its first since early in the third quarter.
After a pair of timeouts, Columbiana turned the ball over and United's Brandon Kekel scored on a long pass to secure the win.
Never gave up
"We just didn't give up," Phillis said. "We just started moving the ball around and guys were making plays. Prosko made some great plays going to the hoop and getting fouled. Everyone did something to help us come back."
United coach Rob Clunen was quick to credit his team's defense and positive attitude for the resurgence in the final four minutes.
"They were hanging their heads, so I just told them there was still a lot of time left in this basketball game," Clunen said. "It was all sparked by our defense. We put some pressure on them and forced some turnovers and did a great job of getting back into the game.
"The kids just believed in what we were doing and just thought we weren't out of it. We're just hoping this gets us going now. Tonight's win is only as big as how we play in the next two games. Hopefully, this win gets us back into the league picture."
The Columbiana loss drops the Clippers into second place in the ITCL Tier One standings. After the first half of league play, Springfield (6-1 ITCL) and East Palestine (6-1 ITCL) lead the pack.