MINERAL RIDGE - With 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter, things weren't looking too hot for the Girard Indians.
They watched as a 10-point lead disappeared, and after consecutive fouls gave Mineral Ridge four straight points, the Rams took the lead for the first time since the end of the first quarter.
Just when the game seemed to be slipping away from Girard, Dylan O'Hara saved the Indians. The junior guard scored 15 of his team-high 22 points in an 8-minute span that lasted from the end of the third to late in the fourth and led the Indians to a 73-68 win on Tuesday night.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Girard’s Chaston Williams (21) makes a move on Mineral Ridge’s Mac White, left, as he quickly brings the ball up court during the first quarter of their game on Wednesday night.
"I was struggling earlier in the game, and I felt I let my team down in the first half with only three points," O'Hara said. "So, I felt like I had to pick myself up in the second half for us to get the win."
O'Hara drained a 3-pointer with 59 seconds remaining in the third period, as the Indians (17-3) took back the lead, 47-45, and that proved to be the final lead change thanks in large part to O'Hara. The 6-foot-2 guard proceeded to hit three shots from beyond arc in the fourth quarter, two of which started and finished a 10-0 run from the 6:23 and 4:44 marks that pushed the lead back to 11 points.
"He's done it all year, so why stop now?" Girard coach Craig Hannon said of O'Hara. "He's had a good year, and he's saved us in a lot of games. Tonight, him and Jimmy (Standohar) really put us on their backs and saved us because we didn't play very good basketball. We're just lucky to have guys like them that are able to knock down some shots."
While O'Hara helped push the lead back to double digits, the Indians looked to be in trouble again late, as the Rams (12-9) pulled to within three once again and O'Hara fouled out with 2:07 remaining.
That's when Standohar stepped up to ice it for his team. The 5-10 senior, who finished with 20 points, drove through the lane twice to make it, 70-64. He managed to finish in spite of the Rams' 6-7 center Ryan Nutter waiting near the hoop.
"Standohar's a special player," Mineral Ridge coach Chris Kohl said. "He has no fear. It takes a pretty strong basketball player, pretty confident basketball player to go against a guy that's 6-7. Give Standohar credit - he got it over and under a couple of times."
Although the Rams lost, Kohl had plenty to take out of a game that he was using as a barometer of where his team was going into the tournament. Mineral Ridge came back from double-digit deficits twice in the second half and even had a chance with 30 seconds remaining in the final frame to make it a one-possession game before committing a charge.
"That's what I told these guys when we came in (the locker room) - how proud I was of their effort tonight," Kohl said. "We could have given up at any point in time, but we never did. They played every minute of every quarter. It was senior night, and they really laid it all on the line."
As for Hannon, he said he was displeased with his team's defensive effort throughout the game.
Nutter's size was a problem for the Indians all game long (he had 10 points and 10 rebounds), but he wasn't the only Ram to have success. Senior Zac Hagy drove along the baseline multiple times to help accumulate a game-high 26 points, while others were able to drive through Girard's 2-3 zone to reach the basket.
"I thought we were overall defensively pretty terrible - not just with the big kid (Nutter)," Hannon said. "We didn't stop anyone. They missed a shot - maybe that's how we stopped them.
"We're going to play some very good teams in the tournament, and if we're not ready defensively, we're going to be one and done."