OSS boys basketball team nudge out Nantyr Shores 67-66
After letting a comfortable 21-point lead slip through their grasp, the Orillia Secondary School senior boys' basketball team was in danger of seeing their stellar season come to a heart-breaking demise Tuesday.
But seconds after Nantyr Shores somehow rallied to tie the pressure-packed Simcoe County Athletic Association (SCAA) semifinal contest at 66-66, Ryan Heim, with just 22.6 seconds left in the game, went to the foul line with a chance to put his team back in the lead. Heim's first shot clanked off the rim and the pressure ratcheted up another notch. But after a deep breath, the 6'4" Grade 10 standout sunk his second shot to give his team a 67-66 edge.
The Tritons, who rode the red-hot second half shooting and stifling defence to rally late, had a chance to win the contest on their final possession. But after a hotly-contested shot bounced off the rim, Heim leapt through elbows and shoulders to reel in the rebound and preserve the dramatic victory.
"Getting that rebound felt so good," Heim said after the game. "It was a hard game and probably the best win I've ever been a part of. I feel like everyone on our team is really persistent and none of us ever give up. They made a big push there but we were able to find a way to win."
It looked, early on, like it would be a one-sided win for the Nighthawks on their homecourt. With Hunter Murphy nailing threes and Pierson French and Heim dominating the paint, OSS had a 23-14 lead after the first quarter and stretched their seemingly insurmountable advantage to 43-22 at the half.
But the visitors found their mojo in the second half. They started the third quarter with a 7-0 run and closed the gap to 57-44 by the end of the third quarter. Under constant pressure, the Nighthawks sagged, went ice-cold and opted for low-percentage shots that, for the most part, did not fall. The Tritons capitalized, seized the momentum and found their shooting range. With just 64 seconds remaining, they finally pulled even at 66-66.
In the end, Heim's successful foul shot was the difference. "I've been in that situation before and that time (earlier this year) I missed both," said Heim, whose team needed overtime in that contest to earn the win. "To make one this time... man, that felt so good."
While the result was good, the game exposed the team's weaknesses, conceded Mike Tutty, who coaches the squad with Dan Fournier. "As the noose began to tighten, we took a lot of bad shots down the stretch, shooting threes with just five seconds gone on (the 35-second) shot clock. It was really a game of halves. We had all the momentum in the first half and then we came out and turned the ball over every way possible. It's definitely concerning."
He hopes he can use the collapse as a teaching tool. "Every game is a learning experience and you hope maybe we can learn to mature a little bit from here and take that moving forward," said Tutty. "You can't suddenly change what you're doing and that's exactly what happened."
After an impressive 7-1 regular season followed by a dominant playoff win over Bradford last week, the Nighthawks will vie for a SCAA crown Thursday in Collingwood. The Collingwood Collegiate Institute (CCI) squad is undefeated heading into the title game.
"That will definitely be our hardest challenge of the year," said Heim, who noted CCI beat them by about 20 points early in the season. "We'll have to play our very best to beat them."
Murphy led the OSS offence with 22 points - including six treys. French, likely playing his final home game as a Nighthawk, also had a strong game, netting 20 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Heim added 14 points for the victors.