By JOSH MORGRET
FOR THE COURIER
MANSFIELD — It is the shot that every kid growing up dreams of. And on Saturday, Upper Sandusky senior Brett Montgomery took the biggest shot of his high school career.
It was nothing but the bottom of the net.
Montgomery’s game-winning 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left gave the Rams their only lead of the contest in a 60-59 Division II district final win over Norwalk at Mansfield Madison Middle School.
“I shot it and it felt good right away,” Montgomery said. “The kid that was guarding me blocked my view, so I did not see it go in. I just heard everything.”
Upper Sandusky improved to 24-1 — winners of 24 straight games — and advanced to Thursday’s regional semifinal at 6:15 p.m. at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center. The Rams will take on No. 1 Lima Shawnee (25-0), which beat Defiance 71-51 in at district final at Ohio Northern University on Saturday.
“Brett was in the gym all golf season,” Upper Sandusky coach Jeff Winslow said. “Brett is in the gym at 6 a.m. during the week shooting and he is in there at night shooting. He comes in on holidays and shoots. He does not even get a whole lot of shots in the game, but that was worth it right there.”
It was the fourth 3-pointer of the game for Montgomery and 12th on the day for the Rams. It was all set up on a drive by Cameron McCreary, who kicked it out to Montgomery for the win.
“When I went back to my right to try to attack the rim — I had done that a few times in the second half,” McCreary said. “The defender cut me so, so I turned back around to try to go left and I could not go left. I saw Brett curling around the top of the key wide open, so I hit him. I knew it was going in.”
Added Winslow: “Norwalk was kind of face-guarding Evan (Young), so we put Evan in the corner with Cam up top. We had ran that a few times and if they do not help, Cam is getting to the basket. If they do, we will get it to Evan. If they help down, Cam has the green light to just make the read and he made the read to Brett. We work on that all the time.”
The Truckers (18-8) had one last opportunity. After the teams exchanged timeouts, a heave from Norwalk’s Garrett Obringer was picked off by Trent Beamer to seal the win and send the Upper Sandusky faithful into jubilation.
“We were trying to get Upper to change defenses,” Norwalk coach Steve Gray said. “We took a second to think about what we wanted to do. It is a play we work on before every game. With 1.5 seconds to go, you have to be lucky. We have run it before and it has worked.”
The improbable win for the Rams seemed exactly that — improbable. Norwalk hit seven first-half 3-pointers and led 36-27 at halftime after one of Obringer’s five triples on the day. Gavin Carey opened the third quarter scoring for the Rams, but Will Gehlhausen hit consecutive 3s to push Norwalk’s lead to 42-29 just 90 seconds into the third quarter.
“I said to (assistant coach) Paul (Gnepper) that if Norwalk keeps shooting like that, we can’t beat them,” Winslow said. “They are good inside so you have to help. These guys were making shots and if they kept doing it, we were going to have a tough time. They kept making them. It was incredible.”
Montgomery nailed a 3 and Carey scored off of an offensive rebound to cut the lead to eight points, but Obringer picked a steal and scored with 4:49 left in the third quarter.
That is when Young took over.
The senior hit a bucket, tallied two free throws and scored again to awaken the Upper Sandusky fans. Norwalk got back-to-back baskets, but consecutive 3-pointers by Young brought the Rams within 48-46 — the closest margin since the first 12 seconds of the game.
“Sometimes you take that for granted,” Winslow said of the senior. “Evan Young, his baskets you do not think about. He is just a dynamite player.”
Obringer scored on a putback as the quarter ended and the Truckers extended the lead to eight points and later back as high as nine points at 57-48 when Gehlhausen connected on a 3.
However, McCreary made consecutive 3-pointers and drove to the hole for a score to slice the lead to 57-55 with 1:57 left. Both teams missed out on opportunities before Gehlhausen made two free throws for a 59-55 advantage.
McCreary scored again for the Rams, who were then forced to foul with less than 25 seconds left. Garrett Chapin missed the front end of the one-and-one, setting up Montgomery and Upper Sandusky’s heroics.
“That is the most important lead of the game, isn’t it,” said Winslow in regards to leading for just 1.5 seconds in a 32-minute game. “How we did it honestly is just the heart of our seniors. Norwalk played really good. They did not turn it over for the most part. They made shots and got it to the right guys to make shots. We hung around.”
Norwalk came out and smacked the Rams in the mouth in quick order. Obringer hit back-to-back 3-pointers before Chapin converted a three-point play. Just like that, the Truckers led 9-0 just 1:20 into the game.
Upper Sandusky gained its composure and fought back. The Rams got within 17-14 when Cade Adams hit a 3, but Ryan Sowders countered with a triple of his own as Norwalk took a 20-14 lead after eight minutes.
The Truckers pushed the lead to 10 points after two 3s in a row by Obringer just over a minute into the second quarter. Norwalk extended its lead as high as 12 points at 33-21, but Young and McCreary hit 3-pointers to keep Upper Sandusky within striking distance.
Upper Sandusky played efficiently throughout the game on offense. The Rams committed just three turnovers in the game, two of which came in the first quarter.
“We are a team that goes on runs,” Winslow said. “We have to run like that. We made that run to get back in it and gave ourselves a chance.”
The Rams have had to adjust to losing players — some via suspension, some by injury — over the last month of the season. It has seemingly only made Upper Sandusky stronger.
“That made life a little tougher, but we still have a really good basketball team,” Winslow said. “We were just really deep, fortunately. We had to shorten our rotation. Cam and Evan are 1,000-point scorers in their career. How many teams have that right now at the two guard spots? Anytime you have that, you can win basketball games.”
Obringer scored 21 points to pace Norwalk, which made 10 of 20 3-pointers as team. Gehlhausen added 16 points for the Truckers.
Young topped Upper Sandusky with 20 points while McCreary tallied 16 points. Montgomery added 12 points, but the last shot he took will forever be remembered.
“Our kids keep believing and keep fighting,” Winslow said. “People counted them out and they did not like that. They did not like being counted out after winning 20-some games in a row. They have a lot of heart and they are going to keep fighting until the very end.”
Sowders 4-0–9, Gehlhausen 5-2–16, Chapin 3-1–7, Obringer 8-0–21, Lacy 3-0–6. TOTALS: 23-45 3-4 — 59.
UPPER SANDUSKY (24-1)
McCreary 5-3–16, Montgomery 4-0–12, Adams 1-0–3, Young 6-4–20, Carey 3-1–7, Beamer 1-0–2. TOTALS: 20-45 8-10 — 60.
Norwalk 20 16 14 9 — 59
U. Sandusky 14 13 19 14 — 60
3-Point GOALS: Norwalk 10-20 (Obringer 5, Gehlhausen 4, Sowders); Upper Sandusky 12-31 (Montgomery & Young 4, McCreary 3, Adams).
rebounds: Norwalk 27 (Chapin 8); Upper Sandusky 21 (Adams 5).
turnovers: Norwalk 9, Upper Sandusky 3.