TOLEDO — Oblong had won five of its last six games entering Friday's Little Okaw Valley Conference Southeast Division boys basketball game, and the Panthers, who fell to 6-19, nearly spoiled Cumberland's Senior Night leading 46-40 with 2:30 left. The Pirates scored 10 straight points over the next 1:42 and held on for a 50-49 victory.
"Any victory is a good victory," said Cumberland coach Justin Roedl. "We didn't play well and we were fortunate we came out on the winning side of things. We were sluggish. The kids know and I know it. Hopefully this came at the right time of the season and that it is a wake-up call. We need to learn from our mistakes and get better."
Oblong controlled the pace of the game, never trailed and led by 5 on four different occasions, including three in the opening half. Cumberland remained close and didn't take its first lead until a 3-pointer by Myles Gerhardt with 5:35 left in the game. Oblong quickly answered with a basket by Nathan Meese 20 seconds later, and a layup by Jarrett Manhart made it 41-38, Panthers. After a basket by Cumberland's lone senior Tyson Magee, Oblong scored the next 5 points as Conner Potts sank a 3-pointer and Kacey Cheek netted a pair of free throws for the 6-point lead.
Cumberland, which played man-to-man defense, began its run with a bucket by Gabe Hatfill on a feed from Magee. Brennyn Cutts made one of two free throws, and Zach Wolke's 3-pointer tied the game for the second time. Magee's putback put the Pirates in front to stay. Gerhardt made one of two free throws as did Wolke to push the lead to 4. Oblong had a shot to win it, but the 3-pointer bounced off the backboard and the front of the rim, to the delight of the Cumberland faithful. Gerhardt, who finished in double digits with 10 points, came up with a big tip and steal with less than a minute left and Oblong trailing 48-46.
"He had some real big shots and did some good things defensively," said Roedl. "Coming up and getting that tip, deflection steal at the end of the game was big. Myles and the rest of the team did just enough to get by and get the win."
Magee led all players with 19 points, while Wolke had 13.
"I didn't think we got enough paint touches, and we didn't attack the basket," said Roedl. "We just threw the ball around the perimeter too much. They packed it in (2-3 zone) and tonight was a night where we did not shoot the ball well." They were 9-of-32 in the first 18:33 before going 10-of-20 the rest of the way.
"When you are not shooting the ball well, Oblong packed it in even more and took things away," said Roedl. "I think the game being closer and us not hitting shots, we got tighter and tighter and continued to make mistakes. I think we thought too much. We were worried about making mistakes instead of just going out and playing the game."
Cheek, who entered the game averaging a double-double at 15.6 points and 10.5 rebounds, had another double-double with 12 points and 16 rebounds, while Potts led the team in scoring with 18 points. Meese was also in double digits with 12 points.
"Oblong dictated the game, and that is something we talked about every timeout and every dead ball position," said Roedl. "At halftime, we talked about playing our game and we didn't do that. Mentally, we just did not seem to be here tonight. This week we were lucky to have half the team at practice (due to illness), and that makes a big difference when kids are not practicing together consistently. I am not trying to make excuses, but I think that had a lot to do with it. We have not played together as a full force since the conference tournament championship, and you could see as we looked like strangers on the floor tonight."
Cumberland won the battle of the boards 37-31 and was 3-of-14 from beyond the 3-point line until going 3-for-4 in the fourth quarter.
"I think the sense of urgency and we finally showed just a little desire on the floor in the last two and a half minutes," said Roedl. "I thought we just kind of went through the motions the entire game and thought it is going to out our way. Finally at the end, they realized they were going to have to change things and get after it and start doing the little things right in order for it turn out our way, and we did that finally."
Roedl said his biggest concerns going into the game were offensive rebounds and transition baskets.
"They got way too many transition baskets and too many offensive rebounds, but we got just enough to get the win," said Roedl.
Last year Oblong handed Cumberland its only division loss and won the division on the tiebreaker after both teams finished 4-1.
In the first half, Cumberland remained close, never trailing by more than 5. The Panthers (1-2 in the division) went 14-9 on a 10-foot baseline jumper by Manhart. It looked like the Pirates would trail by just 1 at half, but Cheek, who had 12 rebounds at halftime, scored with 6 seconds left for a 23-20 Panther lead.
Cumberland, 17-6 overall and 3-0 in the division and winner of six straight, is to play host to WSS at 4:30 p.m. Saturday as part of the Little Okaw Valley Conference vs. National Trail Conference Shootout.