Was there any doubt the rubber match wouldn't disappoint?
After two regular season meetings decided by just two points, Sandusky Bay Conference foes Margaretta and Edison met for a third time Wednesday night, this time in a Division III sectional semifinal at Oak Harbor High School.
So when Margaretta took possession of the ball with just 13.9 seconds left and the score tied at 46, it was to the surprise of no one another tight finish was on deck.
And much like the first meeting on Jan. 23, Dylan Bailey proved to be the difference.
Bailey, who beat the Chargers at the buzzer (57-56) back in January, drove to the basket and was fouled with 9.4 seconds left. He made both free throws for the lead, then Edison set up across the timeline and called a timeout with 3.9 seconds left.
Off the inbound pass, Edison's Chris Laughlin got a tough, but decent look at a 3-pointer from the right wing, but it rimmed out. His teammate, Clay Goodwin, grabbed the rebound but got tangled with a Margaretta defender and couldn't get a shot off.
With the win, Margaretta (14-9) will face Eastwood at 8 p.m. Friday back at Oak Harbor in a sectional championship game. The Chargers end the season at 10-13.
In the three meetings this season, the two teams each scored a total of 152 points.
“It's fun, a great feeling,” Bailey said of having two game-winning baskets against the Chargers. “There is really no better feeling to do that, other than winning a team championship of some kind. I really enjoyed it, and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Bailey, who finished with a game-high 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting, said the final play was not drawn up for him, but for teammates Toby Miller or Austin Spicer.
“We drew up a play trying to get it in to Toby (Miller), but we kind of struggled to get it in and it came to me,” he said. “Coach (Steve) Keller had said in the timeout if that did happen, to just be aggressive, so I went up to try and get the basket and drew some contact.”
Leading 24-20 at halftime, Edison (10-13) was able to extend the lead to 31-24 on a basket by Chris Laughlin. However, the Polar Bears answered with a 7-0 run to tie the game at 31 with 2:47 left in the quarter.
But the Chargers again had the answer, as Owen Moyer buried a 3-pointer and added a reverse layup, and Chris Smith scored inside for a 7-0 run to push the lead back up to 38-31.
Bailey cut the margin to 40-37 with 4:41 left in the game, but it again appeared the Chargers had righted the ship with four straight free throws from Adam Wolf and Clay Goodwin. That gave Edison a 44-37 lead with exactly four minutes left.
But from there, Spicer took over, splitting a pair of free throws, then knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 44 with 2:45 left. That set up the sequence where neither team could make a basket until the final 10 seconds of play.
“Two evenly matched teams, obviously,” Keller said. “Coach (Kyle) Hammond really does a nice job with his guys, and I was really proud of our guys. We didn't shoot it well, and really struggled through the majority of the game with that, but when the chips were down and had to make plays, we made some big ones.
“Our mindset in the second half was to be the aggressor, and at times it worked really well,” he added. “But realistically, that stretch with three-plus minutes left, we just made some shots. That was critical, because again, we hadn't really done that all night. Austin really stretched the defense with the two threes he made.”
For Hammond, it was a tough end for a season that saw a young Edison team rebound from a 4-19 season a year ago with just three seniors on the roster.
“I'm proud of how they battled and how our kids developed all year long,” Hammond said. “I think we overcame some expectations, and I'm really proud of these guys. Bailey really made some plays down the stretch for them, and he's a great player. We got the look we wanted, and that's who I wanted to shoot the ball. It just came up a little short.”
Spicer added 11 points and five rebounds for Margaretta, while Mason Dye scored eight points.
For Edison, Laughlin had 15 points and Moyer added eight points and four rebounds.
“We're going to be losing a lot in these seniors, they really did a great job of leading this group of underclassmen,” Hammond said. “They continued to help your young guys grow, and hopefully that will pay off next year, and beyond that.”
Keller talked about facing Eastwood, a 54-47 winner over Western Reserve in Wednesday's first game.
“They are big, talented and have a 1,200-point scorer,” he said. “They are a very good team. But our motto is survive and advance. We didn't play our best basketball tonight, but we survived.
“Now we take care of our bumps and bruises in a day, and get ready for a very good Eastwood team,” he added. “And we're excited for opportunity to face the challenge.”