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Overtime was needed when Malvern took on Lutheran East in a Division IV regional semifinal at the famed Canton Memorial Fieldhouse.
The Falcons overcame a double-digit first-half deficit, and were able to pull away over the final minute of the extra frame, advancing with a 69-64 win.
"You always want to win one more game," commented Head Coach Dennis Tucci. "That's the nature of the tournament. But it's hard to be upset as a coach when your team might have played their best game of the year."
Mark Mayle scored on a drive and a rebound putback, and Jaret Majestice hit a fade away jumper inside the lane and followed with a hard drive to the bucket resulting in two points, as the Hornets raced out to an 8-0 lead, forcing Falcons' Head Coach Anthony Jones to call a timeout with 4:38 to play in the opening stanza.
Majestic's conventional 3-point play with less than a minute remaining gave Malvern a 17-8 advantage heading into the second frame.
The Hornets continued their strong play. A deep 3-ball from Majestic, a nice rebound putback from Brandon Patterson, and four straight free throws from Mayle stretched the lead to 26-12 midway through the second quarter.
Lutheran East would not go away, and closed the half on a 15-4 run to get to within three at halftime, 30-27.
The Hornets maintained their three-point lead throughout the third stanza, taking a 44-41 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Baskets from Tyler Powell and Travis Sanders gave the Falcons their first lead of the night at 45-44. Lutheran East was able to extend their advantage to 53-47 with less than five minutes to play.
Majestic got a much-needed bucket for Malvern, and Mayle came through once again at the free throw line with four straight makes, tying the game at 53-53 with 2:09 to play in regulation.
Maurice Tate split a pair at the line for Lutheran East.
Majestic answered with a 3-ball from the left corner that touched nothing but net, sending the Hornet faithful into a frenzy. The senior made the first of two attempts at the charity stripe with 25 seconds to go, stretching the lead to three.
Powell was fouled on an attempt from behind the 3-point line. The senior guard calmly sank all three attempts, tying the game at 5-57 with 16.9 seconds remaining.
Malvern had a chance to win the game in regulation. Majestic drove hard to the basket. His arching shot off the backboard hung on the rim for a split second, before rolling off. Mayle was able to tip the ball toward's the hoop as time expired, with the ball slipping off the front of the rim.
Mayle, who played with four fouls for the entire fourth quarter, picked up his fifth foul with 2:41 to go in overtime and the game tied at 61-61.
Their were four lead changes over the final two minutes of play. Malvern had two 1-point leads in the span, the last coming with 1:13 on the clock on two free throws from Majestic.
Jordan Burge responded with a bucket-and-one, giving Lutheran East a 66-64 lead with 46 seconds to go.
Malvern turned the ball over on its next possession, and Keandre Graves secured the win for the Falcons with a basket seconds later.
The Hornets closed out their season at 18-9. They has won three district titles in the past four years.
"I don't know what made me prouder, our 8-0 run to start the game, just to let Lutheran East know that we didn't fear them and that we were here to win, or when we got down six points and we looked adversity right in the eye and said, not so fast my friend," stated Coach Tucci. "These kids played their hearts out tonight."
Mayle dominated at both ends of the court. The junior had game-highs of 29 points and 16 rebounds. He also dished out three assists.
"Once Mark fouled out, it was tough on our squad," noted Coach Tucci. "Mark showed why he is a Division I recruit. He was the best player on the court tonight. In our last four tournament games, Mark was 20-of-22 from the foul line in the fourth quarters. He was cold-blooded at the free-throw line with the game on the line."
Majestic closed out his career with 25 points and three boards. He is second on Malvern's all-time scoring list with 1,717 points.
"Jaret had a great game as well," commented Coach Tucci. "He was tremendous for us as he scored 25 points, and I think they were all contested. He finishes his career at Malvern second all-time in scoring, and holds school records in free throw percentage and most 3-pointers made.
"More importantly, Jaret got to play on three district championship teams. That's certainly not a coincidence. He will go down as one of Malvern's all-time greats."
Drew Hutchison had five points and four assists, Jake Moser grabbed five rebounds, Patterson had a bucket and three boards, and Christian Grimm hit a big 3-pointer.
"Jake was all over the floor for us," noted Tucci. "He was out there battling hard for every loose ball. They knew that Brandon was a shooter, and they did a wonderful job of keeping the ball away from him. Brandon had to find other ways to help the Hornets, and he did just that. He looked like he really belonged out there.
"Drew handled their constant pressure all night long. He only had three turnovers on the night. I don't know where we would've been without Drew, because he needs little help with pressure, and that frees up the other guys to do their jobs. Christian was big off the bench. He hit another big three for us.
"I want to thank the three seniors, Jack Naiman, Jordan Browning and Jaret Majestic. You couldn't ask for three better kids. They were important players for our last two seasons. Those three seniors were the backbone of this team, and they have bright futures ahead of them. I would like to wish them the best of luck in the future. Jordan, Jaret, and Jack will be forever Hornets."
Lutheran East went on to beat Warren JFK 67-64 in the regional final. The Falcons will take on Delphos St. John in a state semifinal today (March 23) at 5:15 p.m.