BOARDMAN - Midway through the fourth quarter Friday night it appeared as if third-seeded Niles was in control of its Division II sectional final. Senior guard Ray Russ, who put on a crossover dribble clinic throughout the night on his way to 30 points, had just stolen the ball and made a layup to give the Red Dragons a 44-36 lead over Southeast.
While an eight-point lead is not insurmountable at that point of the game, one got the feeling that the Pirates did not have much of a chance. After all, they had little offensive continuity throughout the contest and had struggled to get many clean looks against Niles' suffocating defense.
Then came one of the most memorable stretches in the long history of the Boardman tournament. In a span of 2 minutes, 24 seconds or six possessions in this race-horse pace of a game Southeast made five 3-pointers. While there were many other big plays to come, that set the table for what would be a 76-67, double-overtime victory by the Pirates.
Southeast (14-9) will play in a district semifinal Wednesday against second-seeded Salem. The Quakers downed Ravenna, 70-53, in last night's second game.
"It was crazy out there; the flow of the game was awesome," said Southeast junior guard Jordan Krych, who made the first two in the 3-point barrage.
Krych did a lot more on the night. He finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. He also made all six of his free throws in the second overtime.
"I'm not surprised," said Pirates coach Matt Dillon when told that Krych was one assist shy of a triple double. "We told them that in a game like this, where we're kind of the underdog, some kids have to step up. You have to be self-motivated and do special things for our team. Jordan Krych did a lot of good things."
Niles coach Ron Price, whose team bowed out at 12-11, said sometimes you have to tip your hat to your opponent.
"Give them all the credit in the world," he said. "Sometimes a team that gets hot just beats you. If any one of those deep threes, with decent (man-to-man defense) doesn't fall, it's a different outcome."
The Dragons' biggest lead was nine points early in the fourth quarter. Behind Russ' 11 points and a defense which forced 10 turnovers, Niles led 16-11 after a quarter. Senior Trevor Norquest scored eight of his 17 points in the second quarter as the Pirates drew within 25-24. Niles led 35-29 heading to the final frame.
During the Pirates' aforementioned unconscious state in the fourth quarter - which also included 3-pointers by Nathan Symiak, Norquest and Lucas Bloom - Niles kept scoring as well. The difference was a simple math equation: 3 is greater than 2. The Dragons were getting their points from inside the arc. For the game Southeast made 11 of 26 3-pointers compared to 5 of 29 for the Dragons.
Norquest's drive and left-handed off-balance shot while getting fouled tied the contest at 53-53 with 41 seconds remaining in regulation. Niles then worked the clock down to the end as Russ drove the right side before a double team forced him to take an errant off-balance shot as time expired.
Norquest, who also had 10 rebounds, fouled out 25 seconds into the first overtime. A baseline drive by Russ and a Chris Parry foul shot gave the Dragons a 60-57 lead with 13 seconds remaining. Eight seconds later Symiak hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to send the game into a second overtime.
"Nathan Symiak hit a game-winner earlier in the year," said Krych, who assisted on the play. "We were definitely (feeling frustrated) in the first half because of their defense and their 1-3-1 press. Even though we worked on it all week they were extremely tough."
Niles sealed its fate by missing all but two of its 13 shots in the final quarter. Russ split two foul shots to begin the period giving the Dragons their final lead, 61-60. Sophomore Corey Proctor's layup began a 9-0 run for the Pirates. Russ' 3-pointer cut it to 69-64 but sophomore Kade Norquest made two foul shots to begin a game-ending 7-3 run for the winners.
"Once again, we had some key people step up and make big plays," Dillon said. "Corey Proctor, a sophomore made some plays and Kade Norquest hit two big free throws. It's tough for a sophomore to step up like that and knock them down."
Symiak finished with a dozen points for the winners. Parry had 12 points, James Tate 11 points and seven rebounds, and Kyle Paden nine points and seven boards, all in a losing effort.
"I'd like to thank my two seniors, Ray Russ and (Kymone Gamble)," Price said. "Ray had a great year. We rode him tonight. Unfortunately we didn't make enough plays before the second overtime."