A big 3-pointer and clutch free-throw shooting ended one of the Hartley High School boys basketball team's greatest seasons.
The Hawks rallied from a 13-point deficit to take a momentary lead early in the fourth quarter but eventually lost to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 49-44 in a Division II state semifinal March 24 at Ohio State.
Hartley finished 22-2, while the Irish (18-9) advanced to the state championship game at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 26.
Hartley led 42-40 with 2 minutes, 1 second remaining when the Irish took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Richard Johnson Jr.
St. Vincent-St. Mary hit 15 of 16 free throws overall, including all six of its attempts in the final 31.8 seconds.
"I thought we had a good chance to win the game," Hawks coach Randy Kortokrax said. "The first couple minutes we couldn't get out of our own way, but it's been a tendency of our team to come back. It came down to a couple big plays at the end of the game."
The Hawks trailed 22-16 at halftime and 31-18 with 5: 50 remaining in the third quarter. Eric Siefert scored six points in the final 3:05 of the third period to help Hartley cut it to 36-33.
Baskets by Siefert and Jacob Matuska gave the Hawks their first lead at 37-36 with 6:47 remaining.
"We haven't been in that big of a game before, but once we got used to it, it was just us versus them," Siefert said. "Like coach said, they hit a big shot."
Siefert finished with 13 points and six rebounds, Matuska had 11 points and eight rebounds and Kendal Sherrod added six points and seven rebounds.
St. Vincent-St. Mary went a span of more than seven minutes without a field goal during the third and fourth periods.
The run by the Hawks helped compensate for a start in which they fell behind 8-0 and 12-4 heading into the second period.
Lorenzo Cugini had 14 points and Davonte Beard added 12 for the Irish, who were outrebounded 28-19.
"I've been in the other locker room, so I understand what they're going through," said St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dru Joyce, who led his team to state titles in 2003 and 2009 and a runner-up finish in 2001. "They have kind of a young squad, so they'll be back."