CHESAPEAKE, Ohio — Chesapeake had the lead in the fourth quarter several times this season only to see it evaporate and result in frustrating losses.
The Panthers appeared headed for that familiar fate Monday night against Westfall in an Ohio Division III sectional basketball game at Chesapeake’s Norm Persin Court.
Ahead by as many as 11 points in the second period, the young Panthers watched Westfall rally in the fourth quarter and take their first lead at 49-48 with 2:58 left when Luke Blackburn scored down low.
Westfall got the lead to three on two occasions, the final coming at 53-50 when Casey Cline scored on a layup with 52 seconds remaining as the visitors broke the Chesapeake press.
This time, the Panthers came back thanks to slashing drives and foul shooting by Dannie Maynard and Levi Blankenship. Maynard converted an up-and-under with 33.6 seconds to go, but missed the free throw and that cut the lead to 53-52.
After Westfall’s Ashton Nunemaker missed two free throws with 26 seconds to play, the Panthers called timeout and worked for a final shot. Blankenship took it on another strong drive to the basket where he was fouled. He calmly sank both free throws for a 54-53 lead.
After a final Westfall timeout, the Mustangs set up a long wing shot by Martin, but it came up short and Chesapeake escaped.
“Hadn’t done that all year,” Chesapeake coach Ryan Davis said of his team’s late rally. “Had leads in the fourth quarter and lost. Did not get the effort. Tonight we did it. We showed toughness.”
Davis finally got to exhale when Martin’s final attempt came up short.
“I hoped it didn’t go in,” Davis said.
Chesapeake, the No. 11 seed in the sectional, now advances to Friday’s sectional final at No. 6 Piketon, which beat West Union, 57-39, Monday night. First, the Panthers have a make Ohio Valley Conference game at home Tuesday night against Coal Grove. A week-plus power loss at the school forced the delay.
Maynard and Blankenship said the team took advantage of penetration to score and draw fouls.
“Go to the hoop and try to get something at the rim,” Blankenship said. “Thankfully I made them. On the last shot, my heart sank a little until it hit the front of the rim. We’ve been in that situation so many times. Keep the head up. Fortunately we came out on top this time.”
“Frustrated and nervous,” Maynard, the smallest player on the floor at the key moment, said. “Took it to the hole. Up and under. Felt good. Didn’t feel good after I missed the free throw. I had faith in Levi to make the two.”
Chesapeake did early damage from 3-point range, but Davis knew that had to change.
“We’ve been living by the three,” Davis said. “We had to get some penetration and finally got it. The first half we kept the floor spread, opened things up and get penetration. The second half we got some fouls and started to shy away. At the end, we went hard.”
Davis said his team had had little gym work since Feb. 13 due to the power issues in Lawrence County. The Panthers did get into the gym once for a shootaround, but that’s it.
“Worried about conditioning, but we handled it,” Davis said.
Cline led all scorers with 23 points. Blackburn added 11.
Blankenship led Chesapeake with 19 and Nathan Cox contributed 10.
WESTFALL 14 9 15 15 — 53: Cline 23, Wolfe 6, Nunemaker 3, Shipley 5, Gifford 2, Clark 3, Blackburn 11.
CHESAPEAKE 18 16 8 12 — 54: Schneider 8, Cox 10, Blankenship 19, Maynard 8, Daniels 2, Bragg 3, Lemley 4.