Type to search

Boys Basketball: Rovers snap 26-game league losing streak in dramatic fashion

Boys Basketball: Rovers snap 26-game league losing streak in dramatic fashion


By Tom Nader

Publisher and Editor


If recent history had its way, Friday would have simply been another game that the Rootstown boys basketball team was not supposed to win.

Trailing by four points with only 15 seconds remaining in regulation, the Rovers seemed destined to discuss another outcome that featured a valiant effort, but with none of the reward.

The difference this time, though, was that the Rovers found something special.

An improbable comeback.

That forced a thrilling overtime.

Which featured a steady dose of senior leadership.

And showcased a couple of unsung heroes.

The result was something the Rovers won’t soon forget: A 66-64 home victory over the Southeast Pirates.

It was Rootstown’s first Portage Trail Conference win since defeating Mogadore, also in overtime, on Dec. 3, 2021, snapping a 26-game league losing streak.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the team right now,” first-year Rootstown head coach Bobby Staudt said. “This game was all about grit, and they found a way to win the game. The atmosphere was just amazing and, honestly, our fans were just as big of a part of this win as anything else. Tonight was a great environment and our guys responded.”

To set the stage for the dramatic finish, let’s drop into the middle of the third quarter when Southeast (8-10, 1-7 PTC) established the biggest lead of the game at 40-32. At the time, the Pirates appeared to be a possession or two away from breaking the game wide open.

Rootstown (4-14, 1-7 PTC) managed to find just enough offense to keep things from reeling out of reach and the Pirates led just 43-37 to start the fourth quarter.

After a back-and-forth start to the final quarter, the true theatrics began with 3:02 to play when Rootstown senior Joe Weaver buried a 3-pointer in the right corner and was fouled. He sank the free throw for a 4-point play that flipped a 46-43 Southeast lead into a 47-46 Rootstown lead.

The play also sparked a series of clutch plays by both teams on nearly every possession.

With 1:41 left in the game, Southeast’s Garrett Sprutte, who finished with a game-high 43 points, connected on a pair of free throws to give Southeast a 48-47 lead.

At 1:34, Blake Mullaly tipped the lead back to Rootstown, 49-48, on two made free throws.

At 1:04, Cohen Richardson canned a right-wing 3 to give Southeast a 51-49 advantage.

With 52 seconds left, Cameron Mahone pushed the score even, 51-51, on a runner.

The next four points went to Southeast, with Case Myers sinking a free throw with 41 seconds left.

The score stayed there with 22 seconds left when Aiden Rodstrom, who would find redemption just seconds later, missed a pair of free throws.

Sprutte then raced the ball down the length of the court, attacked the rim and dipped under the basket for a layup as he was fouled. He completed the and-one basket to lift Southeast’s lead to 55-51 with 15 seconds left.

Mahone dribbled the length of the court for a layup to trim Southeast’s lead to 55-53.

On the ensuing inbounds pass, Southeast was whistled for an offensive foul, giving Rootstown the ball under its own basket and down two.

The Rovers ran a play that got Rodstrom the ball in the post, with his back to the basket, and he was fouled as he went up for a shot in the middle of the lane.

This time, with just 2.2 seconds remaining, Rodstrom sunk both free throws to tie the score at 55-55 that ultimately forced overtime when Southeast’s half court heave at the buzzer hit the top edge of the backboard.

Rootstown gained the early edge in overtime on two more free throws by Rodstrom and another by Zach Hays, but the truly clutch plays for Rootstown came on back-to-back layups, with under a minute to play, by Mahone and Caleb Fillmore that pushed the Rovers’ lead into a two-possession game and not leaving the Pirates enough time to overcome it.

Rootstown led 66-61, with Sprutte swishing a halfcourt 3 at the buzzer to make the final score 66-64.

The flurry of a finish had Staudt excited to join his team in the locker room celebration after the game.

“They were waiting for me and I got soaked,” said a smiling Staudt. “It was a special moment for the team and maybe something that can change the trajectory of the program.”

Mahone led the Rovers in scoring with 29 points on an efficient 12-of-17 shooting from the floor. He was joined in double-digits by Rodstrom, who had 18 points and a game-high 16 rebounds, along with three blocked shots.

“I thought Cam and Aiden were great tonight,” Staudt said. “To have a player like Cam that can go get a basket when you desperately need one is a great option to have. With Aiden, to hit those two free throws to send the game into overtime, after the sequence moments before when he missed a pair of big free throws, really shows how mentally tough he is. Before he hit the two free throws to send it to OT, I shouted out to him, ‘Right guy, right spot,’ because I believed in him in that moment. It was so loud that I am not sure he heard me, but I believed in him.”

For Southeast, Sprutte added 15 rebounds to his electric 43 points, with Richardson being the only other Pirates player to reach double figures with 10 points.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *