The Gresham Wildcats celebrate their come-from-behind victory after the final buzzer sounds
It was a finish for the ages. The Division 5 boys sectional semi-final matchup between Gresham and Lena that left no stone unturned, and left no one in attendance in their seat. The Gresham Wildcats never quit and managed to pull off the 79-74 win in overtime.
Gresham trailed Lena by 11 in the final minute of regulation in what appeared to be the end of a magical season for the CWC-10 champs, however the team never gave up against the long odds.
They were able to cut the deficit to eight after a three-point bucket by Ray Creapeau. The Gresham defense would then force two turnovers and an easy basket in the backcourt to cut the lead to six.
On the ensuing inbound, Neal Cerveny stepped into a 3-point shot at the top of the key while drawing the foul, converting a 4-point play to cut the Lena lead to two.
After a Gresham foul and a pair of missed free throws from Lena, Gresham still had more magic in them. Neal Cerveny took the inbound the length of the court to drop in the game-tying bucket with only seconds remaining to force overtime.
The extra period is all Gresham would need, outscoring Lena 11-6, despite leading scorers Neal Cerveny and Drew Haffner fouling out. Cerveny would finish with a game-high 33 points, while Haffner would add 13.
Gresham would need other players to step up and close out the game, and that’s just what they did to extend their season.
“There’s some guys that may not have played as many minutes as they normally would and we needed them there, and it was huge,” said Gresham head coach Jeff Zobeck. “Tonight, that was their role. That’s what we needed them to do and they did it.”
The come-from-behind win in that final minute is something Zobeck said was something he’s never been a part of.
“Our guys didn’t give up,” Zobeck said after the game. “I told them at halftime, we’re not playing real well because we haven’t made shots. We needed to stick with it and it came down to that last minute before we got some things to go our way.”
It was a sluggish start for both teams, as they navigated pre-game nerves. The first points for either team would not come until five minutes had passed in the first half, but as the game wore on, both teams started to find a rhythm.
Lena was led by Connor Heise, who had 25 points before fouling out in overtime. Hunter Borchert added 23.
After being shutout in the first half because of foul trouble, Gresham’s Todd Otradovec scored 15 in the second half, including four big points in overtime to help seal the win.
Gresham moves on to the sectional final, to be played at D.C. Everest Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. The game can be heard on ESPN 94.9/96.5 FM and 1380 AM.