Western Reserve was fully expecting a down-to-the-wire game.
When it happened Thursday night, the Roughriders were well prepared.
Western Reserve hit 7 of 8 free throws in the final 1:15 to seal a 62-56 district semifinal win over Ontario. The Roughriders (19-5) advance to Saturday’s Division III district championship and will take on Huron (19-5) at Willard.
The Roughriders and Tigers last met in the tournament in a sectional championship in the 2004-05 season, won 53-49 by Western. Ontario had ended Western's season in a district semifinal in the 2009-10 season (56-49).
“You get to the district tournament, it’s a heavyweight fight,” Western Reserve coach Chris Sheldon said. “I told our kids it’s going to be the team that can land the most punches at the end of the night, and continue to battle and still be standing at the end, that is going to determine our basketball game.”
After five lead changes throughout the first three quarters, the ‘Riders earned a four-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
The game tied up at 51 all with 4:17 left to play and again at 53 all after Willie Roth and Cameron West each exchanged free throws.
Ontario was in the double-bonus and Western Reserve was then able to cruise to the win on free throws.
Craig Meyer led Western in scoring with 14 points.
Western Reserve got out to a 9-4 lead in the first quarter before Ontario (20-5) crawled back to earn a 14-11 lead after the first eight minutes.
It was a back-and-fourth battle throughout the second quarter until Western Reserve went to the locker room with a 28-27 lead.
Read more in Friday's Norwalk Reflector and Sandusky Register.