Ross cans buzzer-beater to give Loyalsock a 62-60 win over Holy Redeemer in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA Tournament.

By: Brett R. Crossley | PIAA District IV | March 11, 2018 | Photo courtesy Brett R. Crossley

 
Ross cans buzzer-beater to give Loyalsock a 62-60 win over Holy Redeemer in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA Tournament.
 

WILLIAMSPORT — With 21 seconds left to play it appeared Loyalsock would hold the ball for the final shot of the game after a late timeout.

Everything appeared to be going right until a miscommunication cut what might have been six or seven seconds into just two for the final play. A quick inbound to Gerald Ross from Connor Watkins gave Loyalsock a chance. The ball hit the glass, but bounced back for a make to give (4-2) Loyalsock a 62-60 win over District 2 runner-up Holy Redeemer at the clock expired.

The win advances Loyalsock to the second round of the PIAA Class AAA Tournament to face Valley Force, which defeated Penn Treaty 80-60.

As for the final play of the game, it was one Loyalsock had tucked away in the bank for five years. The call was perfect and set Ross up for another chance to play the hero.

"It was crazy knowing I shot it," Ross said of his initial impressions of the game-winning shot. "It looked a little left and then I saw it twirl around and go in and I couldn't believe it. The whole game we had to stay positive."

Ross might have grabbed the headlines with the walk-off, game-winning shot, but plenty of other Lancers contributed in one of the teams most complete wins of the season. Seven different players scored points for the Lancers. Brandon Bauman hit a three-pointer in the first quarter to help the offense build a three-point leaad and force a Holy Redeemer timeout. Bauman later hit a three in the third quarter to finish with six points.

"I was highly impressed with the bench," Loyalsock coach Ron "CI" Insinger said. "They all made good contributions when we needed it. That was part of the game plan. We wanted to use seven or eight guys so we could keep the legs fresh."

In the second quarter, as Holy Redeemer build a lead, Loyalsock's offense went into a funk. The Lancers missed six-of-seven shots to open the quarter. Near the 1:19 mark, Anthony Pastore hit a long three from the top of the key. He then intercepted an inbound pass and put it up quickly for a five-point run. The quick swing in momentum and points for Loyalsock pulled it within ten points of Holy Redeemer as the clock ticked down to halftime. Loyalsock would get to 22 points at the half as the Royals took a 29-22 lead into the break.

"You start this tournament at 0-0 and put the back games behind you," Insinger said. "We've had great practices and felt really prepared for tonight."

The second belonged to Holy Redeemer, but Loyalsock opened the third hot as Aiden Gair, who said after a good warmup to the second half his coaches game him the green light to take shots, hit a three. It paid off as Gair opened with a three and kept it going to finish with nine points over the eight minute span.

At the 3:11 mark, Gair hit his second three to cut the Royals' lead down to four points.

"At any given night he can scorch the nets," Insinger said of Gair. "Tonight was the night for him. He's got two years left and this should springboard him to great things."

As Gair made his mark on his first state playoff game, Ross also started to heat up, hitting 3-of-5 third quarter shots. Near the end of the quarter Ross hit a three. He then picked off a sloppy inbound pass and turned it into a quick three points to pull Loyalsock to within 38-36 of Holy Redeemer. Ross pulled off a similar play at the beginning of the fourth quarter to give Loyalsock a two-point lead and force a Redeemer timeout.

Prior to playing the hero, Ross was aided by big plays from Mitchell Klingerman, who connected on a long three and grabbed a rebound in the fourth quarter. Gair also had a three-point play after making a layup and getting fouled. Wakins had a steal, rebound, and two points in the final quarter.

"We could have folded when we were down 15, but we kept telling them to keep fighting," Insinger said. "Our game plan was just to keep upbeat. Holy Redeemer is used to winning games in the 30s and 40s so we wanted to speed up the game."

The Lancers made 11 three-pointers in the game. Ross connected with four, including two in the final quarter. Pastore used one to help the offense in the second quarter. Connor Wakins made one in the opening quarter. Bauman and Gair both had two off the bench.

"I felt good," Gair said of his outside shooting. "I shot well in warmups and felt like I should just keep shooting. Coaches just gave me the green light and they let me shoot whenever."

Loyalsock has been outstanding in big-game situations throughout the postseason. In the PHAC Tournament Watkins connected with a late layup off a pass from Ross to give the Lancers a two-point win. That victory came on the heels of a game-winner from Ross at Danville to hand the Ironmen their only league loss of the season.