Leftridge saves Hawks 2-12-2013

UHS wins in 2 OT after his late 3-pointer

The Dominion Post

University High guard Jeff Leftridge will probably never forget this particular 3-point basket.
“Oh gosh, it was the greatest shot I’ve ever had in my life to me,” he said. “It felt better than any one I’ve ever shot before.
“Once it came off my hand, it felt pretty good. I felt pretty confident it was going in. It was an intense, wild moment. It felt like it was in slow motion.”
It sailed from his hand at the right wing of the UHS basket in Morgantown High’s Rowdy Center with 30 seconds remaining in overtime in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference semifinal Tuesday night. Then it swished perfectly through the net to tie the game, 36-36, against crosstown rival MHS — Leftridge’s former school.
“That makes it even better,” said the junior, who moved into the UHS district last summer.
It forced a second overtime, in which UHS soared to a 52-40 victory and earned the right to play in the OVAC championship game.
“This is the first time in our school history, so it feels amazing,” UHS senior Travis Tomer said. “We wouldn’t have been in that overtime if it wasn’t for Jeff hitting that 3, so gotta give props to him because he put us in the situation to win the game.”
Just moments before, the Hawks (13-6) were barely alive. Senior Deion Cunningham, who led UHS through regulation and the first overtime with 14 points, fouled out and sent MHS senior Mark Johnson, who led the Mohigans with 14 points on the night, to the free-throw line.
Johnson made one, to give MHS a 36-33 lead with 53.5 seconds remaining. UHS rebounded the second shot to set up Leftridge’s tying trey.
“I was so happy for Jeff,” UHS head coach Paul Ingle said. “It’s been tough for Jeff in coming over to our place and playing, and to be able to hit a shot like that and push it to another overtime, I tip my hat to him.”
MHS (14-5) missed a layup at the buzzer to win it. Instead, the shot jumpstarted a stream of dream baskets for the Hawks in the second overtime, and MHS made only four more free-throws.
Tevin Dixon nailed a deep 3, and Curl Dixon wound his way through the lane for a lay-in before hitting a 3 that rolled around every part of the rim and bounced up off the backboard before falling in. Tomer, who led the Hawks with 16 points, converted a seemingly impossible reverse lay-up from under the basket, while falling to the floor and drawing the foul. He then converted the free throw, and several Hawks foul shots later, he topped the win with a dunk.
“I kept preaching patience, and although you look up at the clock and there’s only a few seconds left, you have to make sure you make that extra pass and get that open look,” Ingle said. “The kids just did a really good job in the two overtimes of choosing the right shots.”
It was more action than there had been all evening. The score was knotted at 29 at the end of regulation. At halftime, UHS led, 13-10 — each team scored two points in the second quarter.
MHS head coach Tom Yester set up his team in a packed-in 3-2 zone. So Ingle decided to wait it out. The first stalemate in the second quarter lasted for four minutes, as Tevin Dixon simply held the ball or tossed it next to him to Cunningham a handful of times.
“That surprised me a little bit,” Yester said. “Maybe that was just something he wanted to try to see if he wanted to do it in the (state) tournament.
“But there was no sense in us running out and chasing them around when the game was close, and it was close the whole time.”
But for Ingle, it was a response to the 62-41 beating his Hawks took from MHS at home Friday.
“On Friday night, they came out and played us in that zone, and on reflection, I wished when we had gotten up in that game at our place that we had pulled it out and tried to spread them out,” he explained. “I think we have an advantage in athleticism and speed, so when they play that zone, it neutralizes that, so I wanted them to come get the ball.
“We had the lead, I wanted to spread the floor. It wasn’t really that we were stalling, it’s just that we were waiting for them to come get us and they chose not to do that.”
MHS had to take advantage of limited scoring opportunities due to the Hawks’ time of possession. The Mohigans shot 16-of-19 from the free-throw line, but the aggressive UHS defense stifled them at shooting for 3 (4-of-12) and 2 (6-of-17). The Mohigans also struggled to get rebounds for second shots. Daniel Eby led MHS on the glass with four rebounds. When MHS missed, UHS collected the ball and held it.
“We didn’t execute well in our half-court offense, and of course they had some good defenders, and we did not rebound well enough,” Yester said. “We had a couple missed assignments. That last 3 that they had out there that Leftridge made, that was a missed assignment.”
Dean Marshall scored 13 points for MHS, which plays at Indian Creek, Ohio, on Friday in a consolation game. UHS travels to Parkersburg South on Saturday.
“This is a great win for our program, but we need to win that next game and get on a roll,” Ingle said. “We’ve been somewhat inconsistent, but I think we’ll enjoy this one for tonight.”
Tomer 6 2-3 16, C. Dixon 3 0-1 8, Cunningham 6 2-2 14, Meadows 1 0-0 2, Lewis 0 0-0 0, Shade 0 0-0 0, Bodkin 0 0-0 0, Gutmann 0 1-2 1, T. Dixon 2 0-0 6, Leftridge 1 2-3 5. Totals 19 7-11 52.
Marshall 3 6-8 13, Colasante 2 4-4 9, Johnson 5 2-3 14, Eby 0 0-0 0, King 0 2-2 2, Carden 0 0-0 0, Core 0 0-0 0, Selby 0 2-2 2. Totals 10 16-19 40.
University 11 2 8 8 7 16 — 52
Morgantown 8 2 8 11 7 4 — 40
3-point goals:University 7 (Tomer 2, C. Dixon 2, T. Dixon 2, Leftridge). Morgantown 4 (Johnson 2, Marshall, Colasante).|

Bob Gay/The Dominion Post
Morgantown High’s Mark Johnson (center) goes for a layup between University High’s Curl Dixon (left) and Deion Cunningham.