Bellevue's fourth win of the season on Tuesday night, a 56-55 defeat of Northern Ohio League opponent Sandusky, will be remembered for the way it ended on Kenyon Missler’s long-range jumper at the buzzer.
Missler scored a game-high 19 points — nine of those coming in last four minutes of the fourth quarter — as Bellevue overcame a double-digit hole in the second half.
But the controversy of that last shot — and whether it was a 2- or 3-pointer as called — will live on for about two weeks until the teams square off for the third time this season in the Division II sectional tournament at 8 p.m. Feb. 25 at Willard High School.
“I think it gives us some extra motivation with the way this one ended,” Sandusky coach Dustin Sharp said.
Bellevue coach Brad Schieber said his team benefitted from “the physicalness of the game and getting kids more familiar (playing against Sandusky). We did some different matchups from the first game with them to see how they’d work out, and I’m sure they did some of that too with us.”
Bellevue (4-14, 2-7 NOL) erased Sandusky's 16-point lead, eventually getting to within a point (54-53) with 1:19 remaining on Dylan DeWitt’s three-point play. The Redmen turned the ball over on their next possession and freshman Jayrese Williams made 1 of 2 free throws at the other end for Sandusky (3-15, 2-7). With five seconds left, Bellevue inbounded the ball to Missler, whose last-second shot between two defenders fell through the rim as time expired.
“We had DeWitt coming through on the handoff, and I told (Missler) if you don’t get it to him, take a dribble, turn to your left and take a shot. And he did,” Schieber said. “We were going for the tie and he couldn’t get the pass to (DeWitt), and I said it was his shot to take.”
Sharp, his players and plenty of fans argued that it might have been a 2-pointer because they thought Missler's foot was on the line. Officials took a moment to confer with each other before upholding their call.
“It was a 2 from what my video guy says,” Sharp said. “But I’m going off what my video guy is saying because I haven’t seen it yet. Based on their reaction, everyone else thought it was a 2.
“It shouldn’t have come to that, though.”
Beating Sandusky could provide Bellevue with a mental edge for their postseason matchup, but the win also boosts the Redmen’s confidence by snapping a six-game losing streak dating back to a Jan. 23 loss to Galion (60-49). It was the second six-game losing streak this season, one that Schieber is happy to see end.
“It’s good to get a good road win and that’s something we’ve struggled to do this season,” he said. “In this environment, to dig down from 16 points against a good team, athletic team with young guys playing and seniors helping out was big.”
Sophomore Seth Linder added 15 points for the Redmen and sparked the second-half rally with his play in the post, while DeWitt and Chuck Dendinger added 8 points each.
The loss is the fifth straight for the Blue Streaks since Jan. 31 (a 50-45 loss to Willard).
“Obviously it’s a tough loss, but a pretty solid first half. The second half, I thought down the stretch we did some good things but there was a lid on the basket,” Sharp said. “We got to the rim when we wanted to, (but) several shots rimmed around and didn’t fall for us and they hurt us down low a little bit.”
In their first meeting of the season on Jan. 3, Bellevue got its first win of the year with a 75-70 defeat of the Blue Streaks — who lost Fisher midway through that game and freshman Jayrese Williams was in his third game after being promoted to the varsity squad.
George Brown led the Blue Streaks with 16 points, and Fisher and Bryan Williams added 10 points each. Jayrese Williams finished with 9 points.
“We had three guys in double figures, so that shows we were able to share the basketball at certain times in the game,” Sharp said. “For about two-and-a-half, three quarters we shared the basketball pretty well.”
A 13-0 run that began late in the first quarter and carried into the second gave the Blue Streaks a 23-11 lead, as Jayrese Williams and Jaleele Brown both scored four points during the run.
Sandusky had another late flurry before halftime with a 9-2 run. It started with Brown's 3-pointer from the wing, two field goals and a bank shot by Bryan Williams, and Fisher's coast-to-coast drive for a 16-point lead. Bellevue's Josh McNeely scored his team's last six points in the second, sending the squads to the lockers with Sandusky ahead 35-21.
Bellevue made two separate runs in the third quarter and outscored Sandusky 18-10, narrowing its deficit to single digits (45-39) entering the fourth quarter. Linder scored 11 of the 18 points for the Redmen.
“He’s a physical kid inside and we’ve got to reward him,” Schieber said. “He works hard so hard and we see it all the time. We’ve got to reward that guy for all the dirty stuff he doesn underneath. He did a nice job.”
Both teams play next on Friday, with Sandusky facing Norwalk (18-1, 9-1) at Sandusky High School and Bellevue hosting Tiffin Columbian.