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3OT Thriller: Jerome Hunter goes for 48 points as Panthers outlast Shamrocks

By Zach Fleer, 01/09/18, 11:14PM EST

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Indiana signee Jerome Hunter had a career-high 48 points on Tuesday

DUBLIN, Ohio -- There are just some guys that you don't chant "overrated" at.

Jerome Hunter is one of those guys.

In a triple overtime thriller at Dublin Coffman, Hunter's 48 points willed Pickerington North (9-2) in a war of attrition over the Rocks (11-1), 91-88.

Riding its Indiana signee from the start of the game all the way back to Refugee Road, Pickerington North battled back from an early deficit. As Dublin Coffman jumped out to a 12-4 lead, the Rocks looked to be in control early. As chants of "overrated" came down from the Coffman student section at Hunter, the Indiana signee would just be getting started. 

Despite going into the second quarter with a 12-9 deficit, Hunter would score 16 points in the first half, lifting Pickerington North to a 32-29 halftime advantage.

In a second half that went back and forth, Dublin Coffman came out hot in the third quarter, executing an 11-2 run in the first six minutes of the quarter to take a 40-34 lead.

That's when the Jerome Hunter Show began. 

With Coffman leading 42-41 at the end of three, the fourth quarter was tightly contested. Seeing six lead changes and numerous ties, Hunter hit a pull-up jumper to give Pickerington North a 57-55 lead with just under a minute to go.

Dublin Coffman sophomore point guard Dom Penn answered with two free throws to tie the game at 57 with 42.9 seconds remaining. Pickerington North turned it over on the next possession, as Coffman senior Trevor Grady took a charge on senior Dondre Palmer, giving the Rocks possession with 6.3 seconds to go.

Dublin Coffman would not execute on its next possession, as junior Derek Van Vlerah lost handle of the ball, resulting in a tie up, with possession siding with Pickerington North. With less than a second to operate, Pickerington North did not get a good look, sending Tuesday's non-league tilt into overtime tied at 57.

In overtime, Hunter officially took over. Heading into the period with 25 points, Hunter would become the primary source of offense for the Panthers. Scoring back-to-back buckets to open the period, Hunter and North led 61-57 with just under two minutes remaining.

Van Vlerah answered with an athletic three-point play, bringing the deficit to 61-60 with 1:40 remaining. Hunter would respond with a bucket on the other end, putting North back up three at 63-60.

Coffman failed to execute on the next possession, as Hunter would knock down back-to-back threes on North's next trip to put the Panther lead at 65-60 with 53 seconds to go.

When it seemed as if Coffman was losing grip, the Rocks responded. Senior Nick Carlson hit a big three with 41 seconds remaining, cutting the North lead to 65-63. North would miss an inside bucket on its next trip, giving Coffman the ball back with 15 seconds remaining.

Junior wing Will Hunter slashed to the bucket and finished a tightly contested layup, tying the game at 65 with 1.6 seconds to go. Much like regulation, Pickerington North struggled to get a good look, as Tuesday's game entered overtime period No. 2.

In double OT, the Rocks appeared to have finally taken control of the game. Leading 76-73 with 25 seconds to go, the Rocks would have to just get one more stop to come away with a win over the area's top team. However, Jerome Hunter would be fouled going to the basket, as the Indiana signee knocked down both attempts, giving himself 45 points with 18 seconds remaining and the Panthers down 76-75.

Carlson would hit two at the line for the Rocks, putting Coffman back up 78-75 with less than 10 seconds remaining. After nearly turning it over, Pickerington North inbounded the ball under its own basket with 1.7 seconds to go, trailing by two.

Drawing up a brilliant play, Pickerington North found freshman forward Jack Sawyer underneath, as the 6-foot-5 bruiser finished right before the buzzer, sending the game into triple overtime tied at 77.

In the final overtime period, other North players outside of Hunter would step up. After knocking down two critical free throws on its previous possession, North senior guard Ty Wiley hit a big-time pull up jumper, putting the Panthers up 83-80 with 1:41 to go. Wiley's shot came right after a three-point play from Coffman reserve guard Trip Zinni, which appeared to give the Rocks' life.

Leading 90-80 with less than 40 seconds remaining, Pickerington North looked to be in the driver's seat. However, the opposite would happen, as Wiley was called for a technical foul following a lay in from Penn. Penn would knock down both free throws, closing the gap to 90-84 with 36.8 seconds to go. 

On the following possession, Penn would weave throw the entire North defense, scoring a bucket that looked like something out of Kyrie Irving's bag of tricks, pulling Coffman to 90-86 with 22.8 seconds to go.

After two missed free throws from Pickerington North, Coffman would score on its next trip, pulling to 90-88 with less than 10 seconds remaining. Sending Hunter to the line with 5.1 seconds to go, the Indiana signee split the pair at the line, putting North up 91-88.

On Coffman's final possession, Penn would lost control of the ball and the Rocks would not be able to get up a quality shot, falling in a triple overtime thriller to the visiting Panthers, 91-88. Despite the loss, Coffman showed incredible grit to battle back from several multi-possession deficits in the final two periods.

Scoring 23 of his 48 points in the overtime periods, Hunter was absolutely dominant down the stretch for Pickerington North. Getting to the line more than 20 minutes, Hunter was effective for the most part, providing more than half of North's offensive production. Eclipsing his previous career-high of 33 points, Hunter put on the biggest scoring display that we have seen from a player from the area since 270 Hoops began in 2015. Hunter also added a game-high 15 rebounds and three assists to his insane stat line.

Outside of Hunter, Sawyer had a big-time showing, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds. The area's best freshman thus far, Sawyer put in high quality minutes against a team Coffman team full of upperclassmen. Wiley added 11 points, with six big ones coming in the third overtime. Palmer added eight points while senior forward Eli McNamara finished with four points, six rebounds and four blocks.

For Coffman, Carlson and Penn each led the way with 20 points. Going into halftime with five combined points, the duo stepped up big time for the Rocks down the stretch, with Carlson scoring all 20 points after halftime. In a balanced offensive effort, Coffman got incredible play from Van Vlerah, who added 14 points, eight rebounds and three steals, while playing solid defense for most of the night.

Will Hunter added 10 points, six rebounds and three assists. Finding himself in the right place at the right time on several plays that resulted in second chance points for Coffman, Hunter played his best game to date for the Rocks.

Junior guard Luke Bartemes was the Rocks' early spark off the bench, knocking down three triples in the first half to finish with 13 points. Grady added eight points, three rebounds and three assists, but would foul out in overtime. 

In a game for the ages, Pickerington North would make more plays down the stretch behind its superstar senior Hunter. Improving to 9-2, the Panthers have won eight-straight games and have yet to lose to a Central Ohio opponent, knocking off top teams like Coffman, Pickerington Central and Beechcroft.

Pickerington North will get even stronger on Friday when senior guard Corey Baker will make his debut for the Panthers against Grove City. With yet another senior hungry for a state title, Pickerington North has the area's most loaded roster at this point.

For Coffman, the Rocks will have to quickly rebound as Upper Arlington comes to town on Friday. The Golden Bears lost 68-60 on Tuesday to Olentangy, snapping a 10-0 start to the year for a team that debuted at No. 1 in the state AP poll on Monday. 

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