VANDALIA — With less than six seconds remaining Bellefontaine 6-foot-4 junior guard Dawsin Tillman nailed a shot that he will remember for the rest of his life.
With Northmont leading 45-43 with 16 seconds left in the opening round of the boys Division I sectional tournament at Vandalia-Butler the Chieftains stormed down the floor and put up a 3-point shot that missed the mark. The ball bounded high off the rim and toward the left corner. Tillman got control of the rebound and found himself boxed in by four Northmont defenders deep in the left corner. Tillman turned, jumped and launched a desperation shot on a low trajectory and buried the trey to give the Chieftains a 46-45 victory.
When Tillman buried the shot there were still about two seconds remaining, but the basket so demoralized the Thunderbolts that they didn’t even attempt to put the ball in play. Bellefontaine players jumped off the bench and stormed the court to surround Tillman, but with Northmont making no attempt to continue play the officials ignored the infraction.
With the win Bellefontaine improves to 11-12 while Northmont ends its season at 12-11. The Chieftains advance to face Springboro (16-4) in the sectional quarterfinals Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Butler.
It was almost apropos that Bellefontaine won. Northmont looked lethargic and unenthusiastic when it took the court. Northmont Coach Collin Abels confirmed there were problems after the loss.
“We didn’t lose the game on that last shot,” Abels said. “I told the guys we lost the game due to some of things leading up to that point. We lost the game yesterday in practice. We had to kick the kids out of practice yesterday because we had an awful practice. The game is just the end result of everything else that you do leading up to it and during it. We have guys who feel horrible because the kid made that shot, and guys who feel horrible because they missed some free throws. The only thing I could tell them is that we didn’t lose the game there. We lost the game by not answering the bell in the first half and we lost the game by not being ready to practice yesterday. We lost the game back in summer gym where we spent more time arguing and complaining than solidifying ourselves as a team. I know one shot defines a game and the season, but obviously we have some things we have to correct in the off season so we are even better next year.”
Northmont’s offense never really clicked the entire game. The only thing that kept the Thunderbolts alive was their defense.
Bellefontaine led 13-7 at the end of the first quarter and by as much as 21-13 in the second quarter before Northmont decided it better play ball. Senior Jason Biggs nailed a 3-pointer, Bellefontaine missed a shot and Myles Tanner drew a foul putting up a shot inside. Tanner sank one of two free throws and Biggs buried another trey to cut the Chieftains’ lead to 21-20. The half ended with Bellefontaine clinging to a 26-24 advantage.
Northmont’s defense began to have an impact in the second half. Trailing 28-26 Jabari Perkins came up with a steal, scored a layup and drew a foul by Jack Clement. Perkins nailed the bonus to give the Thunderbolts their first lead since taking a 2-0 lead to open the game. After a Bellefontaine misfire Spencer George fouled Christian Wilson and the Northmont junior guard converted both free throws to give the Thunderbolts their biggest lead of the game, 31-28. But it wouldn’t hold.
After Hayden Nease nailed a pair of free throws to cut the Thunderbolts lead to 31-30 Northmont’s defense struck again. Wilson came up with a steal, dished the ball to Arius Spears who drew a foul from Jacob Bogan. Spears sank the second shot from the charity stripe but Bellefontaine answered with a basket by Hayes Roebuck who was left wide open underneath the hoop as Bellefontaine put Northmont to sleep with a series of passes. After a Northmont miss George scored with a shot off the glass to put the Chieftains back on top 34-32 and Bellefontaine entered the final eight minutes of play with a 35-32 lead.
George scored again to open the fourth quarter to give the Chieftains a 37-32 lead and on Northmont’s next possession no one seemed willing to attack the basket. Abels displayed his anger and called timeout to rally his troops. Northmont and Bellefontaine both committed turnovers after the timeout.
Rodney Richardson came up with a steal and scored a layup and later scored again to cut the Chieftains’ lead to 39-37. Wilson pressured Tillman as he tried to get the ball out of the back court and Bellefontaine failed to cross mid court in the required 10 seconds with 4:18 left. Northmont’s defense continued to plague Bellefontaine as Biggs came up with a steal and drew foul from Rogan on a drive to the basket. Biggs converted both free throws to put the Thunderbolts up 40-39. Tillman answered with a basket for Bellefontaine but the Thunderbolts came up with another steal and Perkins scored to put Northmont up 42-41.
Northmont’s defense forced an over-and-back call and Wilson scored to put the Thunderbolts up 44-41 with 1:12 remaining. Rogan nailed a baseline jump shot to cut Northmont’s lead to 44-43 with 53 seconds left. With 19 seconds left Rogan tried to drive the paint but got called for a player control foul and Northmont appeared to have the game in hand. Bellefontaine was forced to foul and Perkins went to the line and hit the front end of a one-and-one to give the Thunderbolts a 45-43 lead.
With 16 seconds left Bellefontaine stormed down the court, missed a 3-pointer and Tillman got the rebound and nailed a trey from the left corner to end Northmont’s season.
“On a positive note we were able to accomplish quite a few good things this year,” Abels added. “We had a winning season and finished in second place in one of the toughest divisions in Ohio. We had three seniors who matured tremendously and came up big for us at many different points throughout the season and that’s the sad part, because when you see that kind of growth and development from young men now they have to move on and you hate to see them go. But, you hope the underclassmen look at what happened and they make sure it doesn’t happen again next year.”
BEL 13 26 35 46 – 46
NMT 07 24 32 45 – 45
Bellefontaine: Hayden Nease 8, Hayes Roebuck 2, Jacob Rogan 10, Isaiah Miller 4, Jack Clement 3, Dawsin Tillman 7, Spencer George 12. Totals: 19-4-46.
Northmont: Jarell Taylor 6, Myles Tanner 1, Jabari Perkins 6, Christian Wilson 10, Rodney Richardson 6, Vinson Walker 2, Arius Spears 1, Jason Biggs 13. Totals: 14-15-45.
3-point goals: Bellefontaine 4 (Rogan 2, Clement, Tillman); Northmont 2 (Biggs 2).
Records: Bellefontaine 11-12, Northmont 12-11.
Reach Ron Nunnari at 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@civitasmedia.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind