As expected, Westview won its fourth straight NECC boys basketball tournament championship Saturday night in Emma.
But arch-rival Fairfield didn’t make it easy.
The scrappy Falcons were within a whisker of pulling off the huge upset. But two clutch free throws by Nic Raber at the end of regulation, and five more charity tosses by Jordyn Bontrager in the overtime period earned the Warriors a hard-fought, 52-49 triumph over their neighbors from Benton.
“The kids fought, battled and made just enough plays at the end,” said Westview head coach Rob Yoder, who has guided the Warriors to NECC tourney titles in five of the last six seasons. “Fairfield always plays us tough and we told the guys that this would be the hardest game for us in the tourney, and it sure turned out to be just that.”
Fairfield, which knocked off Eastside, Central Noble and Angola to reach the title tilt, took a 42-39 lead with 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter on a nifty reverse layup by Joe Line. The Falcon upset appeared to be secured moments later when Westview’s Chandler Aspy missed the front-end of a bonus free throw situation.
However, Warrior teammate Kyle Miller managed to grab the rebound and draw a foul with nine seconds left. Miller, who led the champs in scoring with 22 points, calmly swished both free throws to narrow the margin to one.
The Falcons had a second chance to put the final nail in the Warriors’ coffin with eight seconds left when Marcus Rodes stepped to the line. But Rodes could only connect on one of two tries, resulting in a 43-41 score.
Raber rebounded Rodes’ miss and was dribbling up court when he was fouled with five seconds left. The senior hit nothing but net on both charity tosses to knot the count at 43-all.
Fairfield advanced the ball to mid-court, then called a timeout with 2.5 ticks remaining to set up a game-winning shot. Brad Lantz received the ball at the free throw line and launched a 15-foot try that bounced off the back of the iron as the buzzer sounded.
A bucket by Miller and two free throws by Aspy gave Westview a 47-45 lead early in the overtime session. After a Lantz foul shot cut the gap to one, Bontrager canned three of four charity tosses to extend the Warrior lead to 50-46 with 47 seconds to play.
Garrett Scott sank his fourth and final three-pointer of the game with seven seconds left to bring his team back within a point. But two final free throws by Bontrager, followed by a Fairfield turnover sewed up the Warriors’ 11th victory in 12 decisions.
“This is a very tough week,” said Yoder of the NECC tournament, “and we were maybe a step slow tonight. You have to play well to get here (the championship game) and that can take a lot out of you.”
Miller netted 15 of his 22 markers on five, three-point bombs in the middle two quarters. The outburst followed a stern message directed to Miller and his senior classmates by Yoder.
“Our seniors have to be the leaders on this team for us to be successful and I felt they needed to be reminded of that,” said Yoder of his first-period pep talk. “Like the competitors that they are, our kids responded. I’m so thankful for the players we’ve had during this run (five titles in six years). I’ve truly been blessed.”
Scott finished with 18 points to pace the Falcons, who dropped to 8-6 overall with the loss.
Fairfield 49 (OT)
Scoring by quarters
WV 6 17 10 10 9 -52
FF 9 9 14 11 6 -49
Jordyn Bontrager 1-6, 5-6, 7; Daron Miller 0-0, 0-0, 0; Jamar Weaver 1-5, 0-0, 3; Cody Litwiller 0-2, 0-0, 0; Brett Yoder 1-3, 0-0, 3; Chandler Aspy 2-7, 5-8, 9; Nic Raber 3-9, 2-2, 8; Kyle Miller 7-12, 3-4, 22; Totals 15-44, 15-19, 52
Three-point shooting 7-19 (K. Miller 5-6, Weaver 1-5, Yoder 1-3, Bontrager 0-3, Litwiller 0-2); Rebounds 26 (Bontrager 6, K. Miller 6); Steals 6 (Aspy 3); Assists 9 (Bontrager 5); Team Fouls 15 (Fouled Out: None)
Garrett Scott 7, 0-1, 18; Josh Stephens 0, 0-0, 0; Marcus Rodes 2, 2-4, 7; Mitch DeWitt 1, 0-0, 2; John Stack 1, 0-0, 2; Brad Lantz 3, 3-5, 9; Joe Line 3, 3-6, 9; Thomas Martin 0, 0-0, 0; Alex Miller 1, 0-0, 2; Totals 18, 8-16, 49
Three-point field goals 5 (Scott 4, Rodes 1); Team Fouls 21 (Fouled Out: Line)