“A, B, C. Always be closing.”
The words of Alec Baldwin’s iconic line from the 1992 film “Glengarry Glen Ross” will haunt the Green Bulldogs for a long time.
After Green left the door open for the North Canton Hoover Vikings, senior Dom Iero drove a dagger through the Bulldogs’ hearts with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in overtime to win an Alliance Division I district semifinal, 67-66.
“We just didn’t take care of business,” Green coach Mark Kinsley said. “Give them credit, they came back and made some big shots there.”
After Nicholas Reale sank two free throws with just less than 30 seconds left in overtime, Hoover coach Randy Montgomery called a timeout. The Vikings (21-4) put the ball in Iero’s hands, and he drove left with two Green defenders blanketing him.
With his momentum carrying him toward the left sideline, Iero lofted a leaping 25-footer that swished through the net, touching off a wild celebration that saw the Hoover bench empty and a jubilant Iero race down the court and off to the locker room as the stunned Bulldogs (21-3) could only look on in silence.
Senior forward Dan Fanelly and Eddie Janini collapsed to the court, while junior center Josh Pritchard hung his head and walked slowly toward the bench.
The Bulldogs silently filed down the hallway to their locker room, eyes red and faces full of sadness.
Kinsley kept coming back to the same point, over and over: Close the game when you have the chance.
“When you’re up eight with a minute left, you’ve got to close it out,” Kinsley said.
Had the Bulldogs been able to stifle the Vikings when they had the chance, the overtime period never would have happened.
Green led by eight points with just more than one minute left in regulation and by five points with 45 seconds left, but poor clock management allowed Hoover to stay alive. Two quick 3-pointers in the closing minutes by sophomore guard Austin Marciniak that both came up short allowed Hoover more time to catch up, and a key turnover against Hoover’s 1-3-1 half-court trap prevented the Bulldogs from closing the game.
“We didn’t use clock management very well, and when you have an eight-point lead with a minute left, you’ve got to close that out,” Kinsley said, reiterating his earlier point.
Iero’s 3-pointer with 35 seconds left pulled Hoover within two, 58-56, and after another quick shot by Green, senior forward Harrison Blackledge banked in a tough shot from the right block over Fanelly to tie the score at 58-all with five seconds left.
The two teams traded clutch shots in overtime and no one was more clutch than Reale, who made all four of his free throws in the extra period, but it wasn’t quite enough.
Page 2 of 2 - Allowing Hoover to stay alive in the closing minutes wasn’t the only opportunity Green allowed to slip through its fingers. The Bulldogs started the game strong, building a 27-9 lead early in the second quarter before the Vikings closed the half on a 12-3 run built on 3-pointers by Blackledge, Iero and Evan Schick, with Schick hitting the final two as the Green lead shrunk to 30-21 at the half.
The game tilted in Hoover’s favor when Montgomery implemented the 1-3-1 approach in the third quarter, forcing eight Green turnovers as the Vikings went from down nine to tied at 40-all by the quarter’s end.
“We knew it was coming. We worked on it, but we didn’t handle it well and we weren’t aggressive enough out front,” Kinsley said, his voice trailing off.
The back-and-forth final 12 minutes came down to who had the ball last and in the end, the Hoover boys team authored a last-second win to complement the Hoover girls team’s last-second win in a district final just six days prior.
Fanelly led all scorers with 27 points and had a team-high nine rebounds. Iero topped Hoover with 25 points, 22 of them in the second half.