NEW MANCHESTER - The Weir High boys basketball team made their foul shots in the final minute of the game and Oak Glen didn't, giving the Red Riders their first win of the season after 10 straight losses, 43-40, Tuesday night at Oak Glen.
The game was nip-and-tuck throughout with 13 lead changes plus five ties as the two Hancock County rivals battled down to the wire.
"I'm happy and proud of our kids," said veteran Weir High coach Mike Granato. "I'm happy for our fans. When you think about it, our football team went 0-10 and our basketball team was 0-10, but the kids were jumping off the bench when we scored and the fans were making a lot of noise in the fourth quarter. Even though the fans were kind of outnumbered, it was like a home game for us, and I was excited about that.
"That's big and we need our fans there Friday night when we play Madonna to encourage these guys and let them know they're still behind them."
The Red Riders were up 13-11 after one quarter, but were outscored 7-1 in a lackluster second stanza to go down 18-14 at the half.
Weir High began to apply more defensive pressure in the second half and it paid off as they went into the period with a 29-26 lead.
"We haven't handled pressure, for the most part, all season," said Dave Smith, whose team totaled 14 turnovers, with six of them coming in the fourth quarter. "But again, we just don't have a go-to guy. We don't have someone who can take the game over and make something happen for us.
"Looking at the game, though, our defensive effort wasn't where it needed to be. I know we didn't score a lot of points and didn't shoot well (14 of 37 from the field) and our foul shooting was horrible (8 of 16), but we just didn't do things defensively that we've been doing. And that's the most frustrating thing to me."
Because of the Golden Bear defensive letdown, Weir High scored repeatedly in the paint, but was guilty of missing a lot of uncontested layups.
"By our count, we missed about 10 bunnies," said Granato, whose previous longest losing streak in 14 years at the helm was three games. "The negative is we missed a ton of layups. The positive is that it didn't discourage the kids.
"We got tremendous effort tonight, especially with our fourth-quarter defense, from everybody. We got a big lift from Kory Knight, Mitch Viakley and Marques Smith off the bench. I hope the kids enjoy this feeling of winning tonight and learned what it takes to win."
The Golden Bears (2-12) held the biggest lead by either team at 23-16 when Tyler Click hit one from downtown at the 6:03 mark of the third quarter.
The Red Riders, however, battled back through the remainder of the third stanza with a 13-3 run that gave them the lead going into the final frame.
Weir High got its biggest lead of five points with 6:56 left in the game when senior Dylan Cassiadoro drove the lane for a layup and was fouled. When he drilled the free throw (Weir High made 10 of 12 from the line), it armed the Red Riders with a 35-30 lead.
Cassiadoro led all scorers with 17, including two from behind the arc.
Oak Glen, which defeated the Red Riders 43-29 in the second game of the season, came right back with a 7-0 run to recapture the lead. Click nailed his second three ball of the game and senior Taylor Kincaid made a layup in transition and then a short jumper from the right baseline.
Another Red Rider senior co-captain, Josh Groves, got a rebound and putback and then drove the lane for a layup giving Weir High the lead at 39-37.
Senior Matt McLaughlin found nothing but net from three-point land to give the Golden Bears the lead for the last time at 40-39 with 3:29 left in the game. It turned out to be the final score for the Bears.
McLaughlin, usually a reliable foul shooter, went to the line at the 1:01 mark in a bonus situation because the Red Riders had committed 10 fouls in the half, but missed both shots.
Seven seconds later, Groves was fouled. Both of his freebies found the net, giving Weir High the lead for good at 41-40 with 54 ticks left. They were the only two foul shots for Groves, who finished with 10 points and six rebounds.
On Oak Glen's next possession, perhaps the Golden Bears' best foul shooter, Cody Howell, who shared team-high point honors with Click and Kincaid, each with 10, went to the foul line. When he missed the first shot, Granato got a time out and when the teams returned to the floor, Howell's bonus free throw missed the mark with 36.5 seconds on the clock.
"We had two senior leaders at the line late in the game," Smith recalled. "Matthew McLaughlin, a great kid. That's who you want there and Matthew missed both of them. And we get Cody there, down one point and Cody misses both of them. They made theirs and we missed ours at a crucial time."
Weir High junior Andre Sims, who finished with six points, was fouled two seconds after he grabbed the rebound of the missed Howell shot and calmly went to the charity stripe at the other end to zip two through the hoop for the final margin of victory. Sims came up big with 2.2 seconds showing on the clock when he tipped McLaughlin's three-point shot from the right baseline. As he was falling out of bounds, Sims got one hand on the ball and threw it off the leg of a Golden Bear to save possession for the Red Riders.
Weir High returns to the Carl Hamill Fieldhouse to play crosstown rival Madonna Friday night while Oak Glen hits the road to play North Marion.
Weir High 43, Oak Glen 40
Weir High 13 1 15 14 - 43
Oak Glen 11 7 8 14 - 40
WEIR HIGH: Knight 1 0-0 2, Viakley 1 1-1 3, Davis 1 0-0 2, Cassiadoro 7 1-1 17, Groves 4 2-2 10, Smith 0 0-0 0, Sims 1 3-4 6, Curtis 0 3-4 3. Totals: 15 10-12 43. 3-pointers: Cassiadoro (2), Sims; Rebounds: 23 (Sims, 7, Groves, 6); Turnovers: 9.
OAK GLEN: McLaughlin 2 0-2 6, Smith 0 0-0 0, Click 4 0-0 10, Woodruff 0 0-0 0, Ford 0 3-4 3, Kincaid 5 0-0 10, Howell 3 4-8 10, McGraw 0 1-2 1. Totals: 14 8-16 40. 3-pointers: McLaughlin (2), Click (2); Rebounds: 27 (Kincaid, 7, Howell, 6); Turnovers: 14.