Anthony Wayne's Jake Mruzek (23) battles Perrysburg's Trevor Hafner (33).
If the first two meetings between Anthony Wayne and Perrysburg are any indication, another tight and thrilling contest can be expected in a rubber match later this month.
The Generals prevented the Yellow Jackets from clinching at least a share of the Northern Lakes League title on Perrysburg's home court on Tuesday night with a dramatic 50-49 win.
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The game was tied at 36 after three quarters. Then, there were eight lead changes in the final quarter.
Perrysburg's Matt Mesker hit a 3-pointer — his only points of the game — to put his team up 47-45 with 2:28 left.
The Yellow Jackets took a 49-45 lead as Nick Moschetti, who tallied 13 points, hit two free throws with 1:00 remaining.
Anthony Wayne senior Matt Fox, who finished with 19 points, nailed a deep 3 to make it a one-point game with 45 seconds left.
The Generals' Jake Reid, who finished with a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds, then grabbed a defensive board. AW's Hunter Johnson scored his only two points of the game with a bucket in the paint with 23 seconds remaining.
“It just happened,” Johnson said of his slash to the basket for a layup. “I got the ball and I knew I had to score. So I just took it. That felt awesome. We lost to them earlier this year so we wanted to come back and get this.”
Perrysburg still had two chances to drain the winning basket over the final 20 seconds but Anthony Wayne held on. Moschetti, who scored the game-winning basket in Perrysburg's road win over AW on Jan. 14, missed a long 3 at the buzzer. The Yellow Jackets had converted 12 straight free throws before Quinn Thomas missed with 44 seconds left.
The Generals (10-6 overall, 8-4 NLL) rallied from a 24-19 deficit at halftime with a big third quarter.
Perrysburg (17-2, 10-2) came into the game ranked No. 6 in Division I and had a chance to clinch at least a tie for the NLL championship with a win.
Perrysburg had handed the Generals a 48-46 setback in an equally entertaining slug fest. The teams meet again in the D-I sectional final on Feb. 28 at Otsego.
“Anytime Anthony Wayne and Perrysburg play it's going to be a tough, grind out game,” AW coach Bryan Borcherdt said. “The last eight times we've played, they've all been tight. You have to maximize your plays and be efficient on both ends of the court.
“We just happened to make the last surge tonight. I'm proud of my guys. To come here and beat Perrysburg when they are sixth in the state, it's a good thing for us.”
Perrysburg's Nate Patterson scored 12 of his team-high 16 points in the first half. Matt Kaczinski chipped in with 10 points for the Yellow Jackets.
“There were a couple plays down the stretch that went their way,” Perrsyburg Dave Boyce said. “They got a big open 3. Hunter Johnson made a huge shot. We had a couple shots that could have gone in but didn't quite drop.”
Fox knocked down five 3s, many from well beyond the arc.
“So many guys stepped up,” Borcherdt said. “Defensively we were great. There guys are very good and to limit them was a great team effort.”
The Generals took the lead for the first time since leading 4-0 on Fox's 3 with 1:58 left in the third.
Borcherdt said his team had “an attack mentality” after losing at home.
“We were upset we let that one go. These kids carried that with them tonight,” he said. “I imagine Feb. 28 is going to be another grinder.”