OBETZ, Ohio -- Sometimes it helps to be flat out lucky. In an important Mid State League-Buckeye matchup against Amanda-Clearcreek, Hamilton Township got lucky when it mattered most.
Seconds after the visiting Aces tied the game with 14 seconds to go, Amanda-Clearcreek, who had trailed for most of the game, mistakenly intentionally fouled Hamilton Township junior guard Marquis Moore, despite not trailing.
Going to the line with 9.3 seconds to go, Moore had ice in his veins, knocking down two crucial free throws to help Hamilton Township (11-8, 8-4) sink Amanda-Clearcreek (12-7, 5-7), 61-59.
While Moore was limited due to injury on Thursday, his presence off the bench was crucial for the Rangers. Coming into the game and immediately knocking down back-to-back threes, Moore provided a big confidence boost to Hamilton Township.
Moore's six points and two assists in the half helped Hamilton Township develop a 30-28 lead at the break.
In the second half, Hamilton Township turned in a total team effort, relying on all seven players in the Rangers rotation. While Amanda-Clearcreek's backcourt duo of junior Jayse Miller and senior Will Riffle never backed down, Hamilton Township had an answer any time the Aces were ready to take over.
The outside shooting of senior center Corey Hise paid dividends, as the 6-foot-5 post's third triple of the night put Hamilton Township up 51-44 with 6:40 remaining.
Amanda-Clearcreek didn't worry, as Riffle and Miller powered a 15-7 run over the next six minutes. Trailing 59-57 with 32 seconds to go, Amanda-Clearcreek benefited from poor free throw shooting from the Rangers, as back-to-back missed front end one-and-one opportunities gave the Aces a chance to tie or take the lead.
Going back to its stud Miller, the junior guard drove right and had an impressive finish at the rim to tie the game with 14 seconds remaining.
An otherwise great performance for Miller turned grey quickly, as the junior made a critical error by fouling Moore. While Amanda-Clearcreek got back into the game by putting the Rangers at the line, this time the score was tied, which put Thursday's contest in the balance.
Moore's good fortune gave the junior a chance to win the game, as his free throws were never in doubt, putting Hamilton Township ahead 61-59 with 9.3 seconds to go.
On a night where Riffle became the third player in Amanda-Clearcreek history to score 1,000 career points, the senior's game-tying attempt was blocked, as Hamilton Township held on to a crucial win at home.
Staying within a game of Teays Valley for the MSL-Buckeye lead, Hamilton Township pulled off a gutsy performance. Moore and Hise led the Rangers with 13 points each, combining for six three-point field goals. In a matchup with Amanda-Clearcreek 6-foot-7 bruiser Alex Smith, Hise held his own, forcing Smith into a litany of close range misses, while finishing with eight rebounds.
Moore showed signs of improvement as an outside shooter, knocking down three healthy looking triples. The 6-foot-1 guard's entire offensive game opens up when he's shooting the ball at a high level, which has been the case as of late.
Junior guard Ato Forson played a strong game on both ends, adding 10 points, five rebounds and four assists. The glue guy for the Rangers, senior Drysten Crallie was outstanding on the defensive perimeter against Riffle, finishing with eight points, five rebounds and four assists, while forcing the stud Aces senior into plenty of tough shots.
Senior wing Tyler Block added nine points, while fellow senior Brandon Hundley finished with seven points, which all came on consecutive possessions in the second quarter.
One game back of Teays Valley, Hamilton Township can strike the final blow in eight days, as the Rangers will hit the road to finish its regular season against the Vikings. A win would force a tie in the division, as Hamilton Township suffered a tough overtime loss to Teays Valley in the teams' first meeting last month.
For Amanda-Clearcreek, the Aces have to be frustrated after Thursday's showing. Leaving a ton of points around the rim on high percentage looks, their inability to convert layups came back to haunt them.
Never leading after the second quarter, Amanda-Clearcreek fought back extremely hard to have a chance to win the game. Miller had a standout performance, finishing with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. The 6-foot-1 junior has a strong ability to create off the dribble, as we were impressed with his vision and passing acumen.
Riffle added 14 points on a historic night, knocking down a few tough jumpers and showing off his above-average athleticism when attacking the rim.
Smith pitched in 12 points and 12 rebounds, as the Aces went through him for the majority of the first half. Junior wing Jesse Connell pitched in 11 points on two threes in the second half, while senior guard Andrew Hunter rounded out the scoring with seven points.
Dropping six of seven league games by single digits, Amanda-Clearcreek suffered another tough loss in a game that it could have very easily won. The Aces still have a ton to play for, as they will be a sleeper team to watch in the Division III district tournament.