In a game that saw momentum switch hands a number of times in the second half, Clyde managed to weather the storm and answer every Oak Harbor rally to edge the Rockets, 54-51, in the Division II Sectional Semifinals at Clay High School.
Down 45-35 midway thru the fourth quarter, the Rockets staged a rally that started with a three-pointer by A.J. Cecil and ended with a Greg Haar triple to cut the deficit to 47-43 with 2:30 remaining.
After some back-and-forth possessions that didn’t net any points, Paul Cullen hit what appeared to be the dagger, connecting on a three-pointer out of the left corner with 1:01 remaining.
Down 50-43, Austin Wiegand hit a three for Oak Harbor to cut the deficit to four, and, after two free throws by Cullen, Haar hit a three from the top of the key to make it 52-49 with 30.5 seconds remaining. After the Fliers missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on the opposite end, Haar misfired on a triple from the left wing and, after Rieman came up with a steal, Clyde put the game away at the charity stripe.
Derek Gray led the Fliers’ balanced scoring attack with 18 points, followed by center Jonathan Linnestad, who had 10. In addition to Rieman’s eight points, Cullen finished with seven and Gregory chipped in with six. In the third quarter, Oak Harbor was able to cut the deficit to 31-30 and the Fliers, as they did all night long, responded, scoring five straight points to take a 36-30 lead into the fourth quarter.
Haar led all scorers with 24 points, including five 3-pointers, and Cecil contributed with 18. Twenty of Haar’s points came in the second half.
After Oak Harbor outscored Clyde, 12-9, in the first quarter, the Fliers responded by winning the second period, 12-4, to take a 21-16 lead into the half.
“Our boys played really hard tonight,” said Oak Harbor head coach Eric Sweet. “They executed my game plan defensively pretty well. You have to give credit to Derek Gray. He’s hitting some shots that a lot of kids just don’t make and my kids are looking at me saying, ‘What can we do?’. He’s hitting step-back jumpers that are tough.
For Haar, Cecil and Weigand, all of whom are three-year lettermen, and fellow seniors Sam Laderach, Andrew Benner and Bryce Rubie, it’s the end of a career that saw them turn around a program that had fallen on hard times in recent years. In the last seven seasons, the Rockets won a combined 21 games and finished in seventh or eighth place in the Sandusky Bay Conference each time. This year, however, Oak Harbor managed to go 11-11 in the regular season and 7-7 in the SBC, good for fourth place.
“I’m proud of my kids,” Sweet said. “These seniors, all six of them gave me a heck of an effort. They bought into me, they bought into the program. We went 11-11, it’s something we haven’t done in a long time and I’m proud of my team.”
Haar spoke about what he and his fellow seniors have done to try and help rebuild the program over the past two seasons.
“What we did this year is all from Coach Sweet,” Haar said. “We came to practice every day ready to work our tails off. He set the tone at the beginning of the season. The last (number) of years, teams would just fold. The reason we won so many games this year is because we played harder and with more intensity. The defense was the main reason we were in a lot of games.”
“A.J., Austin and I watched (the losing) happen for three years and we got sick and tired of it. When we’re down, we’re going to make stuff happen. It’s just about being competitive. You can’t fold, you can’t give up. That’s another (testament) to Coach Sweet. He’s got all the faith in us and it helped us out confidence-wise.”