North Union senior Zach Vernon (2) drives to the basket against Jonathan Alder’s Taber Headings (22) and Reed VanKirk (14). NU edged the Pioneers, 45-44.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Aleksei Pavloff)
JA senior forward Taber Headings (22) secures a contested layup with NU’s Nolan Draper (1) and Max Parish (3) defending.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Aleksei Pavloff)
North Union started the 2021-22 boys basketball season with games coming down to the final seconds before a winner was decided.
The first three games finished with one-point differences and one four-point edge,
The Wildcats came out on the plus side in three of them.
After several games that were decidedly won by North Union, it has returned to that earlier montage in its past two games.
Following a 51-50 loss to Indian Lake on Jan. 7, the Wildcats once again needed some late-game heroics in defeating Jonathan Alder.
Trailing 44-43 with the final seconds ticking off the clock, North Union’s Owen Davis drove to the basket, only to have his shot fall away.
Zach Vernon, though, grabbed one of his team-high eight rebounds and was fouled on his stick back attempt with 3.5 seconds left in the game.
Vernon, a 77 percent shooter from the charity stripe, netted both free throws to give North Union a 45-44 lead.
Alder called a time out to set up its last play, which turned out to be a three-quarter floor length pass.
The ensuing shot bounced off the rim, giving the Wildcats a one-point victory, their 10th in 12 games.
“I am not sure that as a coach I have had this many one-point games,” North Union coach Brian Terrill said. “Jonathan Alder will probably be the best defensive team we will see this year.”
Alder head coach Zach Ross linked his team’s less-than-average start on defense to his team’s third loss in 10 games. The Pioneers are second in the Central Buckeye Conference in scoring defense, allowing just over 44 points per contest.
“The slow start on defense did not help us,” Ross said. “We gave up 28 points in the first half. In the end, North Union made one more play than we did. We will use this game to get better and grow as a team.”
Another factor that led to a NU victory was how the Wildcats shot free throws. They lead the CBC with a nearly 75-percent total from the charity stripe.
They made all four attempts, each by Vernon, in the fourth quarter to finish the game connecting on 10-of-11.
“We try to put our players under pressure when shooting free throws in practice,” Terrill said.
Coming off just its second loss of the season, Terrill said the next day’s practice was spent the whole time looking at film from the game against Indian Lake.
“We picked it apart and wanted them to know what to improve on,” he said. “We stressed three things – shot selection, boxing out and turnovers.”
For the most part North Union did a good job of not turning the basketball over.
However, a three-possession stretch midway through the fourth quarter allowed Alder to take the lead.
The Pioneers took advantage of the trio of miscues, scoring seven points to take a 44-43 lead with 3:19 left in the game.
Joey Walker scored on a drive, Taber Headings dropped in a three-pointer and Reed Van Kirk notched a free throw.
Alder held the ball for a good part of the closing minutes, but a missed free throw with 45 seconds left set up North Union for its chance to win.
A Davis jumper from the lane with five seconds left gave North Union a 13-11 lead after one quarter of play.
Davis also came up with the big play to conclude the second quarter.
He hit a jumper from between the halfcourt and three-point lines, allowing the Wildcats to take a 28-24 lead into the intermission.
Davis’ three-point play with 59 seconds left in the third quarter upped the margin to 39-30.
Alder, though, got a layup by Walker and two free throws by Grant Welsch to close the gap to 39-34 by the end of the quarter.
Davis finished with 19 points, while Vernon netted 12 markers. Headings led Alder with 12 points and Walker tallied 11 points.
The Pioneers won the JV game 48-25.
Will Jackson had 12 points for JA, while Tyler Krebehenne led North Union with seven points.
Draper 0-0-0, Vernon 3-6-12, Parish 0-0-0, Bright 2-0-6, Davis 7-4-19, A. Krebehenne 3-0-8. Three-point goals: Krebehenne 2, Bright 2, Davis.
Welsch 2-2-7, Heiss 2-2-7, Van Kirk 1-1-4, Begin 1-0-3, Walker 5-1-11, Headings 5-0-12. Three-point goals: Heading 2, Welsch, Heiss, Van Kirk.