Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013 @ 7:18 PM
Updated: Saturday, March 16, 2013 @ 7:18 PM
By: Jay Morrison - Staff Writer
KETTERING — None of the 4,000 people crammed into sold-out Trent Arena expected anything less than another epic Alter-Dunbar game Saturday afternoon in the Division II regional final, not even after the Wolverines missed their first 12 shots and fell behind by 17 points.
As expected, Dunbar stormed back and eventually took a one-point lead with 64 seconds remaining. But the Wolverines missed four free throws in the final 32 seconds, the last of which ended up in the hands of Alter senior Jaaron Simmons, whose uncontested layup with 9.6 seconds remaining lifted the Knights to a 60-59 victory.
“That was about as exciting of a game as I’ve seen in a long time,” said Alter coach Joe Petrocelli, who will take his ninth team to the state tournament in his 50th and final season at the school.
“This is pretty doggone special,” Petrocelli added. “You can’t script a tournament or a run like this. Every one of these games has shocked me. I’m dead serious. I would never have believed it. When we started out the season, I was just hoping to have a winning season.”
Alter, 21-5 and ranked No. 7 in the final Associated Press state poll, will face No. 2 Bishop Watterson in the state semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Columbus. No. 10 Dunbar, the defending state champion, finishes 21-7.
“They were well prepared and did a great job,” Wolverines coach Peter Pullen said of the Knights. “They jumped on us early, and we had to fight and struggle to get back in it.”
Simmons scored 17 of his game-high 26 points in the first half to help Alter race to a 14-2 lead after one quarter and a 27-10 cushion midway through the second. But Pullen switched defensive assignments in the second half, and senior Myron McGuire limited Simmons to a pair of field goals, the last of which came on a rush-up-the-court scramble after a missed free throw and resulted in the game winner.
“Actually I was about to pass it,” Simmons said. “I saw Nate (Burger), but then I saw how small (Dunbar defender A.J. Harris) was, so I just finished it.”
The Wolverines got 25 points from junior Williams Green and 15 from sophomore Harris, whose two free throws with 1:04 remaining put Dunbar up 59-58, its first lead since 2-0.
“They weren’t going to roll over and play dead,” Petrocelli said. “That would have been nice, but then we wouldn’t have excited the crowd.”
But after coming all the way back to take the lead, both Green and Harris missed a pair of free throws in the final 32 seconds to set up Simmons’ heroics.
“The final minute is still going through my head,” Pullen said. “There’s so many things. But it came down to what has hurt us in every game we’ve lost – free-throw shooting.”
Dunbar, which also got 10 points from senior Damarion Geter, was 19 of 30 from the line, while Alter was 18 of 23.
Senior Michael Spencer added 12 points for the Knights, who will be making their first trip to state since 2003.