Columbus North’s first tiebreaking play in the closing seconds of Saturday night’s boys basketball game against Hauser wasn’t by design.
The second one was.
Jaylen Flemmons converted a three-point play with 17 seconds remaining, then after the Jets tied it, made a free throw with 2.5 seconds left to give North a 62-61 victory in a game that featured 16 lead changes and 13 ties.
With the game tied at 58, Bull Dogs point guard Lakeevon Whedon drove the baseline. When he was cut off, he made a behind-the-back pass to a cutting Flemmons, who made the basket and subsequent free throw to give North (2-0) a 61-58 lead with 17 seconds remaining.
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“That’s not exactly what we drew up there, but the guys know that if we’re getting trapped in that situation, we want them to stay aggressive and make a play, and they did,” North coach Paul Ferguson said. “I thought we executed down the stretch.”
Hauser (1-1) came down looking for a 3-pointer to tie, but Sam Meek was fouled with 7.2 seconds left. Meek made the first free throw and missed the second, but Alex Gross grabbed the rebound and scored to tied it with 5 seconds left.
The Bull Dogs called timeout with 3.8 seconds remaining and threw a three-quarter court inbounds pass to Flemmons. Flemmons was fouled as he went up to catch the ball and made the second of two free throws to put North ahead by one.
“We practice it all the time,” Flemmons said. “Then, we practice free throws at the end of practice every single day. I landed on my shoulder, so that was hurting when I was shooting, but I made the second one.”
The Jets had one last chance. Mason Sherman caught the inbounds pass about 22 feet out. He turned and fired a 3-pointer, but it bounced off the backboard as time expired.
The first half was back and forth until the Bull Dogs finished the half on a 15-13 run to take the largest lead of the game at 36-26 at halftime. Hauser then outscored North 20-9 in the third quarter to take a 46-45 lead.
The 6-foot-9 Gross scored nine of his 16 points in the third quarter, most of which came when Flemmons, who at 6-2 was the Bull Dogs’ tallest player, was out with three fouls.
“Jaylen getting into foul trouble that third quarter was big for us,” Flemmons said. “They made a little run, and they showed a lot of composure. It was a war in the fourth.”
Flemmons led North with 13 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots.
“We knew they were really good coming in, and compared to last year, we’re not as big size-wise, and they definitely had that advantage on us,” Flemmons said. “But I think we played really well and hit our open shots. We still have things we can improve on.”
Whedon finished with 12 points and six assists for North. Blake Barker added 11 points.
Patrick McKinley also grabbed four rebounds for the Bull Dogs, who were beaten 25-18 on the boards.
“They’re a good team, well coached,” Hauser coach Griff Roth said. “It’s a good place to play. We knew we were playing a great, athletic team, so we were prepared for that. Our guys played hard. They ended up one point better than us tonight.”
Sherman led the Jets with 17 points. Gross added 16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
Justin Compton had 15 points, seven rebounds and two steals for Hauser. Andrew Titus dished out seven assists.
“Hauser is a very good team,” Ferguson said. “I would think they’d be a favorite for a 1A state title this year. Their big guys, Gross and Compton, are both strong and and physical, and they were just hard for us to handle down there. I think Alex Gross keeps getting better and better, and I thought Mason Sherman showed what kind of player he is tonight, too, with a couple really big 3s in the second half. They’re going to win a lot of games this year.”