FREMONT – The Little Giants are undefeated in 2019.
After a brutal schedule to open the season against a collection of opponents with a combined record of 45-19, the Fremont Ross boys basketball team entered the New Year still searching for its first victory.
But boosted by the season-debut of Bryce McKinstry in the post, Ross managed to get timely stops on defense when it mattered most, at the end of the fourth quarter and overtime, to upset Bowling Green 47-46 to break into the win column.
“It’s a huge bear off our back,” said senior Hayden Lehmann, who scored Ross’ only four points in overtime. “I think we’re going to get back on the right page now and the rest of the season will turn out well.”
McKinstry, who’d missed the season’s first six games due to a fracture in his wrist sustained during football season, returned to score four points and grab five rebounds. Beyond his stats, his presence gave the Little Giants, and the fans in the stands, an enthusiasm that had lacked without him.
Late in the second quarter, McKinstry blocked a shot, which was grabbed by Lehmann who then passed to McKinstry, springing him for a fast-break and a slam dunk, giving Ross an 18-10 lead with 2:50 to go in the first half, prompting a Bowling Green timeout as the Purple Pit went into a frenzy.
“I was a little nervous, my offensive game was rusty,” McKinstry said. “But I wanted to go out there, play my role and help our team win.”
“He is our best athlete,” said Ross’ first-year head coach John Cahill, who won his first game on the Little Giants’ sideline. “He’s the only guy in our program who can dunk and he got a dunk tonight. He defends, he takes a lot of pride doing the dirty work.”
The Little Giants took a 20-17 lead into halftime, but Bowling Green took a 32-26 lead into the fourth quarter. The Bobcats appeared on the verge of pulling away when the hit three consecutive 3-pointers bridging the third and fourth quarters, to grow the lead to 12 points, but Ross junior Ben Gedeon answered with a pair of three-pointers of his own to keep Ross close.
“They were in zone (defense), so I knew they were going to play off me a little bit and my teammates got me the ball, set some screens for me and they went in,” Gedeon said.
Gedeon and Lehmann led Ross with 12 points each and Jabryis Heidelburg added 11.
“One on the criticisms of our kids was some of our offseason habits are not where I think they need to be, but Ben doesn’t miss anything,” Cahill said of Gedeon. “He doesn’t miss weight-lifting, he doesn’t miss open gyms, skill-sessions, whatever it is, he’s there. I couldn’t be more happy for him and the way he’s worked to find a way to be a major contributor.”
With a combination of drives to the basket and free throws, Heidelburg scored the Little Giants’ final nine points of the quarter, tying the game at 43 with less than a minute to play.
In the first minute of overtime, Lehmann scored on a put-back of an offensive rebound to give Ross the lead. Less than a minute later, he hit a pair of free throws to put Ross ahead by four. From there, the Little Giant defense took over. Bowling Green made just one field goal in the extra period and, trailing by a point, in the final seconds, were unable to get a shot to fall against Ross’ defense. With 2.5 seconds to play, Bowling Green’s Bryce Hoehner miss a pair of free throws, the rebound tip-in attempt also missed the mark and the Little Giants were celebrating their first win of the season.
“I feel like we have some clarity in purpose, for the first time,” Cahill said. “I really do. I feel like we’re going in the right direction. Even if we lost tonight, we’re doing some things correctly. Last night we had 11 kids go scout, and we never had that when we started. They drove over to Perrysburg on a Friday night to watch Bowling Green. I think when you do the right things, eventually, it pays off and they’re starting to do the right things.”
Ross (1-6 overall) hosts undefeated TRAC rival Whitmer next Friday.
Fremont Ross 47, Bowling Green 46 (OT)
BG| 6—11—15—11—3 46
FR| 7—13—6—17—4 47
BOWLING GREEN (46)
Craft 6; Peek 3; Hoehner 16; Elsasser 20; Dean-Scheele 1.
FREMONT ROSS (47)
LaBronze Barnett 4; Ethan Chumley 4; Hayden Lehmann 12; Jabryis Heidelburg 11; Ben Gedeon 12; Bryce McKinstry 4.
Fremont Ross 45, Bowling Green 23
BG| 3—6—6—8 23
FR| 13—10—9—13 45
BOWLING GREEN (23)
Beaverson 3; Meronk 2; Kampf 4; Suelzer 5; Hammer 6; Cook 3.
FREMONT ROSS (45)
Isaac Fox 6; Tarian Bowling 4; Javien Burel 8; Mickey Lather 4; Jonathan Szymanowski 2; Tremaine Sims 1; Spencer Prce 4; Dion Bradley 6; Jason Burling 2; Jayden Scott 8.
Bowling Green 43, Fremont Ross 33
BG| 14—4—13—12 43
FR| 8—9—14—2 33
BOWLING GREEN (43)
Furnas 7; Gaskins 6; Jackson 9; Suelzer 5; Hammer 9; Cook 5; Curtis 2.
FREMONT ROSS (33)
Kahji Pickins 6; Jaedyn Bulger 5; Kalijah Alejandro 5; Gabe Ontiveros 2; Robert Shepard 8; Kurt Harrison 7.