By JIM METCALFE
ADA — Jefferson sophomore Trey Smith calmly sank a pair of free throws with 5.2 seconds left in overtime and Ada’s last gasp fell short of the rim as the visiting Wildcats grabbed a 51-49 Northwest Conference squeaker Friday night at The Kennel inside Ada High School.
“It was survival mode tonight. We talked before the game about not playing for two weeks — not even practicing for 10 days because we gave them a week off anyway and then we got the bad weather. We don’t have a crystal ball,” Jefferson coach Marc Smith explained. “We talked about being mentally tough and doing what we had to do to get a win. I don’t care how pretty it is, a win is a win.”
Ada coach Chris Sautter also felt his team did well enough to win.
“The effort was great, especially on the defensive end. We held Smith and (Ross) Thompson below their averages, which was a plus,” he explained. “Our execution was good on offense. We got good shots at good spots on the floor. We just didn’t finish. That is the bottom line, we were there but couldn’t close the deal.”
Tied at 47-47 to begin the extra four minutes, Smith struck first for the Wildcats (7-4, 1-2 NWC) with two throws after Ada (1-6, 0-3) missed on its first shot. The Bulldogs tied it on a basket by Grant McBride at 2:48. Jefferson turned the ball over, and Ada missed a three before Thompson grabbed the rebound to give the ball back to the Jeffcats. They ran off over 90 seconds before getting the ball inside to the 6-5 Smith who was fouled by Ada defender Austin Dumbaugh, the senior’s fifth. With 5.2 seconds on the board, Smith dropped both for a 51-49 edge.
The Bulldogs worked the ball to Blake Willeke whose desperation 25-footer from the right wing came up short of the iron as time expired.
After trading the lead in the early going of the opener, the Wildcats — who had not played since Dec. 28th — took a 6-5 lead on a Smith transition layup. That fueled a 12-0 spurt that put Delphos up 16-5 just before the end of the quarter. A layup from Dumbaugh made it a 16-7 Wildcat lead after the first.
Slowly but surely, the ’Dogs rallied in the second period. They whittled the deficit down to 22-20 on Willeke’s three-ball from the left-side pocket. However, the visitors got a pair of singles each from Thompson and junior Nick Fitch to nail a 26-20 halftime margin.
The Bulldogs came out with a renewed sense of energy in the third period and took advantage of some nice shooting — 7-of-12 from the field, led by six each from Dumbaugh and Grant McBride. The Wildcats also shot well with Smith dropping in six. Ada took their first lead since early in the contest on a McBride free-throw jumper with just under 2 minutes remaining in the period. A three from the left corner by Willeke gave Ada a 38-36 edge.
The fourth period was also a hard-nosed, defensive-minded affair. Ada held its biggest lead at 41-36 on a Levi Bass trey only to see Smith answer with his only triple of the night. It was back and forth from there with Jefferson answering Ada until a Stockwell rainbow from the left corner at 2:25 tied it at 47.
Ada misfired on a pair of shots and the Wildcats ran the clock down to under 10 seconds, where a turnover gave it back to Ada. Ada couldn’t get a shot off as regulation ended.
“I was worried about our layoff but I felt our execution was pretty good overall. We handed the ball pretty well, though we had a few turnovers,” Coach Smith added. “I felt in the last two minutes of the game and in overtime, we finally got some stops in the half-court, which has been a weakness of ours this year. We finally got something done we’ve been striving for all season.”
In junior varsity action, Ada knocked off the Wildcats 41-31.
Owen Conley paced the hosts with 12, while freshman Drew Reiss poured in 18 (3 bombs) for the Wildcats.
Both teams return to action on Saturday with Jefferson at Wayne Trace and Ada at Waynesfield-Goshen.
Jace Stockwell 3-0-9, Austin Jettinghoff 1-1-4, Ross Thompson 7-2-16, Trey Smith 6-5-18, Tyler Mox 0-0-0, Nick Fitch 1-2-4. Totals 13-5-10/12-51.
Brayden Sautter 2-0-5, Blake Willeke 5-2-14, Levi Bass 3-0-7, Blake Ansley 0-0-0, Grant McBride 4-2-11, Austin Dumbaugh 5-2-12, Spencer Archer 0-0-0. Totals 14-5-6/6-49. Score by Quarters:
Jefferson 16 10 10 11 (4) - 51
Ada 7 13 18 9 (2) - 49
Three-point goals: Jefferson, Stockwell 3, Smith, Jettinghoff; Ada, Willeke 2, Sautter, Bass, McBride.