Wayne City tops Waltonvile in OT
Landon Willett nails buzzer-beating halfcourt shot, Indians advance 61-58
CHRISTOPHER – “If there's a Willett, there's a way.”

According to Wayne City head coach Don Kueper, senior guard Landon Willett has hit some big shots for his program all throughout his prep career.

But his shot on Friday night to beat the buzzer in overtime against Waltonville in the semifinals of the Christopher Thanksgiving Tournament topped them all.

With the game tied in the final seconds of the extra session, Wayne City was struggling to get the ball up court.

Senior guard Eric Green found Willett on the right side of the floor, near the halfcourt line.

Unfortunately there wasn't enough time for Willett to dribble up court towards the Wayne City basket.

The 5-foot-8 senior did the next best thing. He turned toward the basket and let go of a shot from about 45 feet from the goal.

His spinning shot found the bottom of the net as the buzzer sounded, giving his Indians a 61-58 triumph over Midland Trail Conference rival Waltonville in front of a packed house at the 42nd annual event.

Wayne City led the Spartans by 15-points in the fourth quarter only to see Waltonville rally to force overtime.

The Indians could have iced the game in the final minutes but they committed eight turnovers and missed five consecutive free throws at one point, which allowed the Spartans back in the game.

In a physical game between two longtime rivals, it took a special play by a special player to decide the outcome.

“I don't know what Green (Eric) was waiting on. We had something drew up with Landon down in the corner but Eric was late getting him the ball,” said Coach Kueper. “But Landon made it from halfcourt so we will take it. You know we have watched him do it before in JV games. He (Willett) just has a knack in big games to throw up (crap) and it goes in.”

Chad Dickey, the Wayne City senior forward and leader, led all scorers with 24-points and he also grabbed six rebounds for the Indians.

Green tossed in 13-points while Willett finished with 10.

But none were more important than the final three.

For the Spartans, they had balanced scoring with four players ending up in double-figures.

Isaac McPhail ended up with 15-points to lead Waltonville while teammates Tanner Spihlmann and Caleb Jourdan added 14 and 12.

Senior Zane Wilson tossed in 10 for the Spartans, who slipped into the third place game on Saturday night against Webber Township.

The Spartans got off to a good beginning, only to see Wayne City take a nine point lead at intermission.

An 8-0 run erased an early WC lead, with Jourdan scoring five of his points on a pair of free throws and a 3-point bomb from the left corner to give Waltonville a 7-2 advantage.

Wayne City rallied quickly to close the quarter.

Dickey scored five points; hitting a shot on a rebound in the lane and following that up with a conventional three-point play while being fouled by Wilson.

A 3-pointer by Green gave the Tribe a 12-11 lead at the first horn.

Wayne City continued its run to begin the second quarter, with Willett and Green going off on the Spartans.

Willett drove the baseline for a score and Green got open for a pair of 3-point attempts that he buried as the lead ballooned to 20-11 with 5:12 left before the half.

Waltonville cut into the margin, but Wayne City answered each question in the second quarter exam.

An “an-one” from Spihlmann and a 3-pointer from Jourdan got Waltonville within 22-19.

But Dickey scored five straight points, with yet another 3-pointer, and Willett canned another long shot for a 30-19 spread.

A McPhail basket closed the half with the Spartans in a nine-point hole.

But Waltonville mentor Tyler Mitchell wasn't happy with his teams' beginning of the contest.

“We fought back tonight but we have to be ready to play these better teams early. We need to come out early and play the kind of ball we want to play and we didn't do that tonight,” said Coach Mitchell. “We struggled with them (Wayne City) on their dribble penetration. We gambled too much early and it ended up costing us.”

Waltonville made an immediate move to open the second half.

Wilson, McPhail and senior Dalton Banach got things going with three consecutive field goals to cut the lead to just 30-27.

Dickey scored twice in a quarter closing scoring burst; on a steal and fast break lay in and later on a reverse lay in on a pass by Willett.

When Green drove in the lane and scooped in a shot while being fouled, his made free throw gave Wayne City a 42-31 advantage heading to the final frame.

Dickey scored the first two baskets in the fourth quarter as Wayne City held its biggest lead and seemingly headed for an easy coast home for a shot at the tournament championship on Saturday.

Trailing 46-31, Waltonville made a defensive adjustment, extending its defensive pressure.

The move paid off, with the Indians committing eight of their 21-turnovers in the final six minutes.

Wilson hit a pair of big shots with a tip in on a missed McPhail fast break lay in and a 3-pointer from the right wing.

McPhail took advantage of Wayne City's foul issues as he connected on 6-of-6 from the line.

The Indians could have closed out the game in regulation, but they missed the front end of back-to-back 1-and-1 chances and senior Clayton Tubbs (seven points) missed a pair of freebies with 2:51 left.

Waltonville tied the game at 50-all on two of the McPhail charities and took their first lead since the first quarter on a free throw by Wilson, 52-51.

Wilson added another free throw with :41.7 remaining but then on the next trip down the floor, Dickey stepped up big again with a drive for a score to even things at 53-apiece.“The fourth quarter, that is how we need to play. We finally kicked it in gear. We got up and pressed them which we probably should have done earlier,” said Coach Mitchell. “We wanted to speed them up. Our effort in the second half was outstanding. If we play like that out of the gate then we are up 15. We have to be ready to go against these better teams.”

Waltonville had a possession as they held the ball for a final shot.

Wayne City's Green made a steal in the backcourt and sprinted towards the goal in the final seconds.

His shot missed but Dickey was there for the rebound.

Dickey threw up a shot from behind his head as he was falling to the floor.

The ball bounced off of the backboard but fell off as the buzzer sounded sending the two teams to overtime.

“We have struggled with that since I have been here, we get big leads and we let teams back in it,” said Coach Kueper. “We shoot poor down the stretch, miss lay ups or turn the ball over. We showed some heart in overtime. They came to the huddle before the overtime started. We got them talked back up in the huddle and we went out and won it in overtime.”

The Indians again had chances in the overtime to get separation, but missed three more free throws.

They took the lead, 58-57 with a free throw from Tubbs with :12.7 left.

Waltonville could have taken back the lead, but McPhail missed the first free throw of a two-shot trip to the line.

His second made free throw with :04.2 tied the game and set up the final play for Wayne City.

Wayne managed to win despite 21-turnovers.

They did this at the defensive end as they held Waltonville to 20-of-51 shooting overall (39.2 percent) and just 4-of-17 from the arc.

“Defensively that is what we are trying to hang their hats on. Defense wasn't a priority when I got here but from day one. Tonight we were great,” said Coach Kueper. “Waltonville moved the ball well, we knew they were good. I think we did a good job on them defensively tonight.”

Wayne City shot the ball very well when they weren't turning it over.

The Indians were 23-of-39 overall (58.9 percent) and 5-of-8 from downtown.

Waltonville took good care of the ball, committing just nine miscues.

Wayne City held a 29-21 rebounding edge.

Willett's shot, something that resembled what the Harlem Globetrotter's Meadowlark Lemon made famous for decades, sent the Indians into the title game at the tournament.

The Indians have won this event twice (1994, 2010) and will take on the hosts who were 61-52 semifinal winners over Webber Township on Wednesday night.

Zeigler-Royalton topped Hamilton County JV, 72-63 in the consolation bracket semifinal.

This sets up a Zeigler-Royalton vs. Thompsonville game for the Consolation title at 4:30 pm Saturday.

The Hamilton County JV will play Norris City-Omaha-Enfield at 3:00 pm in the seventh place contest.

Wayne City

Wayne City (61)
– Green 2 2 3-3 13, King 0 0 1-3 1, Caudle 0 0 0-0 0, Willett 2 2 0-0 10, Greenwalt 3 0 0-0 6, Tubbs 2 0 3-8 7, Hensen 0 0 0-2 0, Dickey 9 1 3-4 24.
2FG-18, 3FG-5, FT-10-20, PF-17.

Waltonville (58) – McPhail 4 0 7-9 15, Banach 1 0 0-0 2, Jourdan 2 2 2-2 12, Spihlmann 6 0 2-2 14, Wilson 2 1 3-6 10, Griffith 1 1 0-0 5, Malone 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-16, 3FG-4, FT-14-19, PF-20.

Fouled Out – King, Greenwalt - Wayne City; Banach, Spihlmann - Waltonville.
Technical Fouls – None.