ELLENBORO - Two teams-host Ritchie County and visiting St. Marys-looking to stay in the hunt for a title in the North Division of the Little Kanawha Conference collided at the Rebels' gymnasium Tuesday night.
It was the defending North champion Blue Devils that escaped with a 54-49 overtime victory.
The win, which upped St. Marys' overall mark to 8-1 with a game against visiting Wirt County Thursday night, improved the team's mark in the North to 6-1 while Ritchie County, which plays host to North Division leader Parkersburg Catholic on Thursday night, dropped to 7-4 overall and 3-2 in divisional play.
St. Marys’ Connor Lancaster moves toward the basket as he is surrounded by Ritchie's Johnny Hogue, Ryan Malson, and Nathan Shipe, left to right, Tuesday. St. Marys defeated Ritchie, 54-49, in overtime. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)
The game was a dogfight from start to finish with Austin Bayless' layin off of a Andrew Cosper feed to tie the game at 45 with three seconds left to play forcing the overtime.
Bayless, who finished with a game-high 24 points and 15 rebounds, put the Pleasant Countians in the lead for good with another inside bucket with 3:08 left in the extra period. Colby Brode, who tallied all four of his points in the overtime, then gave the visitors a 5-point, 50-45, lead with a three point play with 2:07 showing on the clock.
A rebound bucket by Nathan Sipe pulled the Rebels back to within three, 50-47, and an Andrew Davis deuce one minute later sliced the margin to one, 50-49, before St. Marys closed out the scoring with a 4-point run-all by Bayless.
The Rebels would have several opportunities to pull out the victory over the final 45 seconds of action. But, a triple by D.J. Burgess, who led the Rebels with 15 points, came up short and Davis, who chipped in with 12 points, fouled out with 33.1 ticks left on the clock.
The contest opened as if the Rebels would make an easy night of their first meeting of the year with the Blue Devils as Justin Sage sank a pair of triples and Davis chipped in with four points as Ritchie jumped out in front by a 14-7 margin.
St. Marys, which plays host to the St. Marys Boys' and Girls' Invitational beginning on Thursday, tallied the final six points of the quarter to pull to within one, 14-13, on a Cosper deuce with one second remaining in the quarter.
The game continued to go back and forth during the second eight minutes of action until a Jessie Hilvers bucket and a Burgess layin down the stretch sent the two teams into the intermission with St. Marys trailing by five, 24-19.
St. Marys opened the second half with an 11-2 run to jump in front by four, 30-26, with one quarter left to play. A quarter dominated by Burgess, who tallied 11 of his team-high points to help the hosts pull back in front, 45-42, with 43 seconds left.
A one-for-two effort by Bayless at the free throw line sliced that margin to two, 45-43, with 29.8 remaining and set the stage for the Blue Devils' last second heroics.