LEES CREEK — An emotional week ended on a high note for Tony Berlin and his East Clinton basketball team.
In stunning fashion, the Astros upset Wilmington 54-41 Friday night in South Central Ohio League action at the EC gym. The victory ends a 10-game losing streak for EC. It also comes within a few days of Berlin dealing with the death of his mother Betty.
“This has been a long, hard season for us,” said Berlin, a WHS graduate and former coach with the Hurricane program. “But we thought we had a chance. We knew they had a very tough win up there against Miami Trace (Tuesday) and then a big game coming up (Saturday) against (No. 1-ranked) Moeller. We were hoping that maybe, just maybe, they might be looking ahead. Whether that was the case or not, we were finally able to play the way we are capable of playing.”
East Clinton is 3-11 overall and 2-8 in the SCOL. Wilmington drops to 9-6 overall and 7-3 in the league. The Hurricane is two games behind league leader Miami Trace in the loss column and one game behind Chillicothe.
Both EC and WHS will play Saturday in the Scholastic Play-By-Play Classic at Fred Summers Court. The Astros will meet Ponitz at 4:30 p.m. while the Hurricane will play Moeller at 8 p.m. In between, Huber Heights Wayne will play Cleveland Heights at 6:15 p.m.
“I want to congratulate Tony and his coaching staff. They certainly deserve this win,” said WHS head coach Michael Noszka. “It’s been a very long week for Tony individually, his family, losing his mother. Our hearts go out to the Berlins.”
Noszka noted there was no secret formula in East Clinton’s recipe for victory.
“They simply outplayed us. Most of all, they outcoached us in every facet of the game,” said Noszka.
Now, the Hurricane faces a true mental test against the high-powered Crusaders (16-0) on Saturday night.
“The good thing for us, we get 24 hours,” said Noszka. “We have to wake up tomorrow, get refocused and get ready for a battle against Moeller. This will give us a chance to find out who we really are.”
JT McCarren led all scorers with 22 for the Astros. He had 11 points in each half. Wyatt Floyd had 19 points, but 13 of those came in the second half comeback.
Jeffery Mansfield topped the Hurricane scoring list with 13 points. He fouled out of the game in the final period.
Wilmington led most of the first half, 14-8 at the end of the first and then 20-17 at halftime. Berlin said his squad had to execute its gameplan to have a shot at the Hurricane.
“The main things we stressed were to play solid defense and take care of the basketball,” said Berlin. “We had an exceptional effort defensively in the second half.”
East Clinton made it a nip and tuck game with a big third quarter effort. Floyd led the charge as the Astros grabbed a 32-29 lead at the end of three.
But Wilmington was not going away quietly. The Hurricane seized the lead on back-to-back baskets by Chris Wolary, and then Dylan Beaugard’s stickback basket with about six minutes to go, 37-36. That would be the last lead of the night for WHS, who missed its final seven field goal attempts.
The score remained close until the three minute mark. With East Clinton up 42-41, Brendan Jenkins put the dagger in the Hurricane with a long-range three-pointer that sent the crowd into a frenzy. It also started a 12-0 for the Astros as they closed out the stunning victory.
January 27, 2017
@East Clinton High School
East Clinton 54 Wilmington 41
(54) EAST CLINTON (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Jenkins 2-1-0-5 McCarren 7-1-7-22 Floyd 6-0-7-19 Conner 1-0-0-2 Olds 0-0-1-1 M. Mitchell 2-0-1-5. TOTALS 18-2-16/20-54
(41) WILMINGTON (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Wright 1-0-0-2 Smith 3-1-1-8 Beaugard 4-0-2-10 Mansfield 4-0-5-13 Wolary 4-0-0-8. TOTALS 16-1-8/16-41
Bill Liermann covers college and high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @lierjet