Down to the wire

GIRARD – It seemed like a cruel fate for Ozzie Hawkins, who staged one of the best individual performances of the basketball season Friday for the Newton Falls Tigers.

Hawkins did a bit of everything in scoring 28 points, but it was Girard Indians senior Jim Standohar who made the play of the game when he stole the ball from Hawkins off the dribble in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. Fouled by Hawkins, Standohar proceeded to make two free throws to give the Indians a 58-56 win in an All-American Conference, National Division game.

While it might have seemed appropriate for the Tigers to get the win because of Hawkins’ dazzling performance, Indians coach Craig Hannon thought otherwise. He was simply glad to celebrate a rare victory in the series.

“That kid (Hawkins) is as good as anyone in the area,” Hannon said. “He’s a tough matchup. He gives a lot of people problems. We knew that coming in. We knew the kind of player he was going to be.

“They have some other guys that can knock down shots, too. We just made one more play down the stretch than them. That’s what it came down to.”

Tigers coach Roy Sembach had to be thinking win or overtime at the worst when Hawkins had the ball with the final seconds ticking off the clock. The 6-2 senior tried to make a move on the right wing, knowing he would probably have to execute a pass to a teammate because of the collapsing defense.

Standohar used his quick hands to take the ball from Hawkins, who immediately fouled Standohar in a futile attempt to get the ball back. Standohar made both free throws with 6.6 seconds remaining.

“My guy went to the ball and Ozzie kind of put the ball in front of my face,” Standohar said.

Standohar completed an outstanding night at the line for the Indians (8-2, 4-1 in the National Division). He was 5 of 5 and the team was 15 of 16.

“I struggled from the line all the beginning of the year,” Standohar said. “We shoot like 50 after a practice a day. I knew from going to the line my fundamentals and the rest would take care of itself.”

Hawkins might have been the only person in the gym that didn’t think he played well. It was a harsh self-analysis by a player that was on his game most of the night. He scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including two foul shots after a bench technical on the Indians, followed by a put back of a miss that gave the Tigers (5-5, 1-4) a 51-50 lead.

“I didn’t think I played very well,” Hawkins said. “Overall as a team I thought we played really well. We had enthusiasm. That’s something we’ve lacked this season so far.”

Adam Czerniak made a 3-point shot to extend the lead to 54-50 and force Hannon to call a timeout with 4:20 remaining in the period. The Indians responded with a fielder by Evan Standohar and two free throws by Dylan O’Hara to tie the score.

Hawkins answered by making a short jumper, but Evan Standohar tied it at 56 with another field goal.

Hawkins had his hands on the ball after Jim Standohar’s game-deciding foul shots. Again faced with a double team just across the time line, Hawkins flipped the ball to Jaden Walton, who missed from just beyond the top of the 3-point arc.

Sembach had no problem with the shot selection or Hawkins’ willingness to give up the ball.

“On offense he (Hawkins) is our facilitator,” Sembach said. “It doesn’t matter how many points he scores; he’s responsible for us scoring points. If teams double him, it’s up to him to get the ball to good shooters to get the 3s.

“If he can get by people and get to the rack, he can score himself. I thought he was under control all night. Once in a while he can get going too fast, but tonight he played a really nice game.”

The Tigers led 17-16 after the first period and 28-25 at halftime. A twisting drive off a behind-the-back dribble by Hawkins in the final seconds of the third quarter tied the score at 43.

Deonte Brown scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Indians. Jim and Evan Standohar both had 12 points, with Evan pulling down 10 rebounds.