Sherman Saunders lifts the Lorain Titans to Lorain County Holiday Classic final vs. Avon Lake Shoremen

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Lorain's Louis Cheers misses on a dunk in the third quarter on Friday night.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Lorain celebrates its victory as Elyria's Dontae Dukes, right, heads for his bench.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Avon’s Matt Lawrence, right, gets a shot off over Avon Lake’s Mitch Gabanic, left, and Jimmy Hessel in the second quarter Friday night during the 15th Annual Lorain County Holiday Classic at Avon Lake High School.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Avon Lake's Seth Muck, right, drives past Avon's Zach Torbert to score on a breakaway play in the second quarter Friday night.

AVON LAKE — Lorain sophomore Sherman Saunders waited three days after Christmas to give his team its best present of the season.

He drilled a deep 3-pointer in front of the Lorain bench with eight seconds left to send the Titans to a stunning, 57-55, win over Elyria, on Friday night, to open the Lorain County Holiday Classic.

Saunders, who led all scorers with 14 points, took a kick-out pass from Eddie Williamson and delivered the biggest shot of his short high school basketball career.

“With about 20 seconds left, I passed it to Eddie and I knew he was going to penetrate,” said Saunders about the last play. “I knew he was about to kick it to me so I spotted up, listened to coach and kept my elbow in. I saw it about to go in and I hit the big shot.”

After dropping four straight games, Lorain coach Andy Bastock felt his young team needed to have a moment to turn things around, and that Saunders may have provided that spark.

“We’ve lost a few (games) more than we’ve wanted to,” Bastock said. “We’ve been in most games this year and haven’t been able to give the knockout punch or finish the other team off.”

Elyria (6-1) had one last chance late when Kody Bender’s half-court heave as time expired just missed off the rim, sending the Pioneers to their first loss of the season. Bender finished the game with 12 points.

“It was a gutsy move going for the last shot,” Elyria coach Brett Larrick said. “The kid hit a big shot. Give them credit. Give their kids credit for playing — a 10-point lead in the third quarter we had — their kids kept playing, fighting and we didn’t fight as hard.”

Down 31-23 at the half, Lorain (2-4) switched to a box-and-one defense to try to slow Elyria down. The Pioneers hit a season-high nine 3s, four by Isaiah Walton, but struggled late with untimely turnovers.

“We just told our guys, ‘This had been coming,’” Larrick said. “If you don’t practice well, don’t work on the things you’re supposed to and play disciplined and our kind of basketball, these things happen. That’s what happened tonight.”

The Titans held a decisive edge on the boards, 27-16 and outscored Elyria 34-24 in the second half. Senior Louis Cheers had a double-double for Lorain with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“These kids are young, but they’re smart,” Bastock said. “This is one of the smartest groups of kids I’ve ever coached. They understand situations very well ... they looked like a veteran, senior team out there in the last couple of minutes. I was proud of them for that.”

Lorain started to make its move in the third quarter, going on an 8-0 run to cut an 11-point deficit to three. The Titans never trailed by more than five points the rest of the way, and pulled out the win late thanks to Saunders’ big shot.

Lorain advances to their second-straight Holiday Classic Championship Game, where they will face Avon Lake tonight at 7:30 p.m.

The host Shoremen followed up the Titans’ thrilling win by leading rival Avon from start to finish on the way to a 48-35 win.

Senior Jimmy Hessel scored nine of his game-high 16 points in the second half, and junior guard Christian Jones hit two 3s and scored 12 points for Avon Lake (3-3)

“We’re not a team where we’re going to have one guy every night,” Avon Lake coach Eric Smith said. “Every night, we’re going to have somebody different step up. Tonight, Jimmy stepped up.”

Hessel and Jones helped the Shoremen race out to an 11-2 start less than 3:30 into the game, and their defense made sure Avon (5-2) was not able to cut deep into the lead. Avon Lake’s smallest lead after the first quarter was just six points, at 16-10 early in the second.

“They beat us in every area,” Avon coach Kevin Sapara said. “They were just better tonight. I’ve got to give it to them. They played really well.

“We couldn’t shoot, didn’t have anybody shooting with confidence. It seemed like we couldn’t make a shot. We shot too many threes, falling in love with the threes, chucking those up. We’re going to have to be more disciplined, going to have to be able to score.”

Jack Poyle led the Eagles with 14 points, but the next highest scorer for Avon was Jordan Lawrence who had six.

Smith said it’s a good thing for his team to host the Holiday Classic and felt it gave his team a little more energy in its win.

“It’s nice having the tournament at home,” Smith said. “It’s nice being able to get a win and get in that championship game (tonight) on our home floor. That’s going to be fun.”

Avon Lake’s defense forced 19 turnovers and never let the Eagles shoot better than 50 percent from the field in any quarter.

Avon Lake 48, Avon 35

Lorain County Holiday Classic

AVON — Brian Kelly 1-0 2, Jack Poyle 6-1 14, Cordell WInters 2-0 4, Jordan Lawrence 3-0 6, A.J. Kistler 1-0 2, Matt Lawrence 2-1 5, Zach Gill 1-0 2. TOTALS 16-2 35.

AVON LAKE — Christian Jones 4-2 12, Jimmy Hessel 7-2 16, Mitch Gabanic 1-1 3, Seth Much 2-0 4, Brad Hamilton 4-1 9, Jake Aiello 1-0 2, Jace Russell 1-0 2. TOTALS 20-6 48.

3-POINT GOALS — A: Poyle; AL: Jones (2).

Score By Quarters

Avon (5-2) 8 11 9 7 — 35

Avon Lake (3-3) 16 12 9 11 — 48

Team Statistics

Field Goals — Avon 16 of 40 (40 percent), Avon Lake 20 of 48 (42 percent).

Free Throws — A 2 of 7 (29 percent), AL 6 of 12 (50 percent).

Rebounds — A 24 (M. Lawrence 4, J. Lawrence 4), AL 28 (Gabanic 8).

Turnovers — A 19, AL 11.

Lorain 57, Elyria 55

Lorain County Holiday Classic

ELYRIA — Tavon Kurtz 2-0 4, Kody Bender 4-3 12, Hunter Parsh 1-0 3, Dontae Dukes 2-1 6, Isaiah Walton 5-0 14, Ronnie Smith 2-0 6, A.J. Johnson 5-0 10. TOTALS 21-4 55.

LORAIN — Louis Cheers 5-1 11, Eddie Williamson 0-3 3, Andre Phillips 5-1 11, Demon Hisle 2-0 6, Sherman Saunders 5-3 14, Gerald Howard 2-0 4, Rashad Berry 4-0 8. TOTALS 23-8 57.

3-POINT GOALS — E: Bender, Parsh, Dukes, Walton (4), Smith (2); L: Hisle (2), Saunders.

Score By Quarters

Elyria (6-1) 10 21 11 13 — 55

Lorain (2-4) 6 17 18 16 — 57

Team Statistics

Field Goals — Elyria 21 of 44 (48 percent), Lorain 23 of 47 (49 percent).

Free Throws — E 4 of 9 (44 percent), Lorain 8 of 14 (57 percent).

Rebound — E 16 (Bender 4), Lorain 27 (Cheers 10).

Turnovers — E 10, L 13.


Last Updated: 12/29/2012 12:06:09 PM EST

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