Rockets storm back to shock Windham

ORWELL – When the Maplewood Rockets and Windham Bombers met in the district semifinals last year, the Bombers thumped the Rockets in a 22-point win.

Considering the two teams split a pair of regular-season meetings, Maplewood may not have focused on that game heading into Monday’s Division IV district semifinal matchup at Grand Valley High School, but it certainly made the win over Windham that much sweeter.

The Rockets trailed by as many as 11 points halfway through the fourth quarter before storming back and beating the Bombers in overtime, 77-76.

“It’s great,” Maplewood senior Kevin Jones said. “It’s my senior year, it could have been the last game that I could play. Last year, being embarrassed by them at Harding, it just made everything seem better.”

Following a Jonah Konzen field goal at the 4:17 mark in the fourth that gave Windham (18-6) a 61-50 lead, things seemed bleak for Maplewood (20-4), but the Rockets didn’t panic, slowly chipping away at the deficit. They finished regulation on a 14-3 run over the final 4:04 to send it to overtime.

The Rockets didn’t try to chuck up 3-pointers during that span, instead connecting on everything from backdoor cuts to putback baskets and even a layup in transition, and they went 6 of 10 from the field over that span.

Maplewood’s hot shooting and Windham’s troubles (1 of 5) culminated in Maplewood’s Ethan Obradovich having an opportunity to tie the game from the charity stripe with 19.5 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The senior center, who struggled at the free-throw line as a junior, stepped up and hit both to tie the game at 64.

“I was very nervous,” said Obradovich, who almost had a double-double with 23 points and nine rebounds. “I tried not to listen to the crowd and try to find a quiet place. I was happy. I knew we tied the game up.”

Having trailed for but 43 seconds of regulation, Maplewood recorded the first six points of the extra period to take a lead it never relinquished. The Rockets went 8 of 12 from the free-throw line, and it proved important. Those freebies pushed it to a two-possession game on multiple occasions, including Luke Urchek splitting a pair with 7.9 seconds left to give his team a 77-73 lead before Dalton Fall drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“They were big,” said Jones, who totaled 16 points and six assists. “Normally, we don’t hit free throws late in the game, and today, I guess, they were just falling for us.”

While the Rockets had a stellar shooting performance at the end, the defensive effort was just as impressive. Maplewood held the Bombers without a field goal for 6-and-a-half minutes and managed to keep Windham out of the paint, which was costly early in the game. Windham’s Parker Rickey was on a tear in the first quarter when the Bombers took a 22-12 lead, scoring 10 of 23 points in the first, but in the fourth quarter and overtime, the 6-foot-2 junior had just three.

“They’re a very good offensive team,” Maplewood coach Nathan Kish said. “When they get to the paint, they will beat you all day long, and when we went on our runs, we limited the amount of times that they got in the paint, which stopped them from kicking it out and hitting shots or dumping it down and getting the easy layups.”

After the game, Windham coach Marty Hill gave credit to Maplewood on the comeback and said he hopes his team, which loses six seniors, learns from this going into next season.

“I told the kids it hurts no matter how you lose,” Hill said. “A lot of credit goes to Maplewood – they’re a good team. (Heck), they finished ahead of us in the league, so it’s not like they’re not a good team. Just a disappointing way to lose when you have a lead, but it happens.”

The Rockets move on to play the winner of the Cornerstone Christian-Fairport Harding semifinal game today, but before focusing on the next opponent, Kish praised his players’ never-give-up attitude.

“We’ve learned how to play with some heart and play with some enthusiasm,” Kish said. “Even though we got down, we didn’t give up, fought through it and were able to beat a very good basketball team.”