Girard celebrates glory, potential
Claussell nets game-winner
By MIKE McLAIN
There was a memorable look to a great past and a hopeful look to another possible great moment tonight.
Caught in the middle of an emotional night here at the high school Friday was the Girard boys basketball team, which tried to get off to a promising start to the season against Howland.
The Indians led almost the entire game before a fourth-quarter run by the Tigers tied the score at 52.
Senior guard Austin Claussell then drove the baseline for a reverse layup with 4.5 seconds remaining to provide the margin of difference in a 54-52 Girard win.
“I saw the baseline wide open, so I took it, and I had to do the reverse layup,” Claussell said.
Howland’s Nathan Barrett got a decent look at a 3-point shot as time expired but it came up just short.
The game was watched by the entire Girard football team, which was sent off to Canton for a date tonight against Cincinnati Wyoming in the Division IV state championship game. A video was shown to those who remained after the game before the players boarded a bus for the short ride to Canton.
If the football story wasn’t enough to give the basketball team extra momentum, a tribute to the 1993 basketball team that won a state championship couldn’t have hurt the cause.
Bob Krizancic, who coached the ’93 team and is the Mentor High School coach, addressed the near-packed gymnasium at halftime, providing a stirring speech to the attentive football players.
Indians basketball coach Craig Hannon and Howland coach Dan Bubon weren’t sure how the players would handle the emotion of the night.
“It was just special,” Hannon said. “It felt like a tournament environment for a first game.
“As much experience as we have, we have a couple of kids that didn’t play much last year. Adam Connelly didn’t play at all last year because of an injury and [Austin] O’Hara missed [19 games]. It was good to get it out of the way, that’s for sure.”
The Indians took a 7-0 lead and led after each of the first three quarters. The Tigers struggled to generate offensive consistency and appeared headed to certain defeat when trailing 50-41 after a 3-point shot by Matt Payich in the fourth quarter.
Howland then began to play better on the defensive end, leading to a 10-2 run capped by a 3-pointer by Tyler Fenton, reducing the Indians’ lead to 52-51.
After a Howland turnover, Christian Graziano was called for a charge on a drive to the basket, sending Cameron Durig to the line for the Tigers. Durig made the second of two free throws to tie the score and set up Claussell’s winning shot.
“I’ve lost too many games at the end where you sit in a man defense and they run their best play and they take a shot either at the buzzer or you foul them at the end,” Bubon said of a decision to play zone. “We said we’re going to force them to do something.”
Hannon said it’s not unusual for Claussell to make a reverse shot.
“They call me the wizard for a reason,” said Claussell, who scored 14 points.
O’Hara had a game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds.
Barrett led Howland’s scoring with 15 points. Durig finished with 12.