Garfield battles back from 10-point overtime deficit to win

By Chuck Condley Record-Courier staff writer Published:

GARRETTSVILLE - Garfield basketball coach Ken Neff is a believer in the 'power of positive thinking.' Neff has been telling his players that if they continue to play hard and have fun, good things are going to happen. Through the first seven games of the season, however, the G-Men have not had a lot of good things happen to them. Garfield has played everyone tough but had just two wins to show for their efforts. But Tuesday night, Neff may have made believers out of his players as the G-Men rallied from 10-point deficits three times, to edge visiting Newton Falls, 75-73, in overtime on a tip-in at the buzzer by Dustin Thomas. The final rally by the G-Men was nothing short of amazing as they trailed by 71-61 with a little over 2:30 left in overtime. But some key turnovers by the Tigers (3-5) and some clutch shooting by Dustin Thomas allowed Garfield to tie the game with 45 seconds left. Thomas, who finished with a game-high 33 points, scored 10 of Garfield 14 points in the overtime period. He hit a pair of 3-pointers that got the G-Men back into the game and then hit the bucket that tied the score at 73. Newton Falls, then committed its fourth turnover of the extra period, that set up Thomas' game-winner. "We were fortunate to be in position to win the game after being down by 10 points," said Neff. "But we've been preaching to the kids all year that if they work hard things will go their way. "Give credit to our kids. They were the ones that engineered this victory. They were out there hustling and working hard the whole game. Finally things went our way for a change." Garfield had an early 9-4 lead in the game, but the Tigers, behind Joe Wilson, went on a 15-4 scoring run over the final 4:00 to grab a 19-13 lead at the first break. Wilson, who had 17 points in the first half and 23 for the game, helped the Tigers extend the lead to 27-17 with 5:00 left in the second quarter. A bucket by Garfield's Nick Rogers cut the Newton Falls lead to 33-25 at intermission. Adam Almashy, who finished with 22 points, canned a trio of 3-pointers in the third quarter to push the Tigers' advantage to 46-35 midway in the third period. The G-Men, however, began to come back. Garfield scored eight unanswered points to get to within 48-43 at the third break. A bucket by Brad Vasil and a three-point play by Thomas tied the score at 48, but a pair of buckets each by Almashy and Brad Vugrinovich gave the Tigers a 58-54 lead with 1:56 left in the game. The G-Men had a chance to take the lead, but missed four free throws in row. The Tigers looked to be in good shape when Almashy canned a pair of charity tosses with 49 seconds left to give Newton Falls a 61-56 lead. Garfield, however, was not about to let this one get away as Thomas hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 61-59 with 18 seconds left. The Tigers then turned the ball over and Vasil was fouled with five second showing on the clock. The 6-1 senior calmly dropped in both shots to tie the score at 61 and send the contest into overtime. Almashy hit a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws, and Wilson canned a bucket and two charity tosses as the Tigers scored the first 10 points in overtime to lead 71-61. But both Wilson and Almashy fouled out and the G-Men took advantage, scoring the next seven points. Brian Brunn and Kyle Paul hit a pair of clutch free throws each during Garfield's final comeback. Both teams shot well from the field. Newton Falls hit 26-of-49 attempts for 53 percent, while the G-Men were 27-of-53 for 51 percent. Vasil joined Thomas in double figures for Garfield with 13 points and had a team-high six rebounds. Vugrinovich added 16 points for the Tigers, while Wilson led all rebounders with 14.

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