In its first Division II regional appearance since 2004, the Watterson High School boys basketball team had an opportunity to win both games late.

In its first Division II regional appearance since 2004, the Watterson High School boys basketball team had an opportunity to win both games late.

In a semifinal against St. Paris Graham on March 19 at Xavier, senior post player Chris Grabosky made a 3-pointer as time expired to give the Eagles a 45-44 overtime victory over the Falcons, who were No. 1 in the final state poll.

Two days later at Xavier against Dayton Thurgood Marshall, a shot by sophomore guard Zack Riddle missed off the front of the rim at the buzzer as Watterson lost 44-42. Thurgood Marshall improved to 21-4 and will play Logan Elm in a state semifinal Friday at Ohio State. Watterson finished 15-11.

"We took two outstanding basketball teams to the wire and we gave ourselves opportunities to win both games, and I'm not just talking about those last-second shots," coach Vince Lombardo said. "We were fortunate enough to make the last shot to beat Graham, and we had several opportunities to take the lead against Thurgood Marshall before that final shot even occurred. We got a really good look on that last shot, too, but it just didn't go in."

Junior wing player Michael Tighe scored 13 points and Riddle had 11 in the final, which Watterson never led, but tied three times at 23, 38 and 42.

The Cougars, who were No. 10 in the final state poll, were led by Greg Gainey with 14 points. Juwan Staten scored 11, including two free throws with 3.1 seconds left.

"We played primarily zone defense and packed in the paint, and they were 0-for-11 from 3-point range," Lombardo said. "But they hurt us with their offensive rebounding, and we didn't finish on several good looks at the basket."

Graham was 24-0 entering the regional, one year after finishing 26-2. The Eagles led 26-11 in the second quarter before the Falcons answered with a 20-2 run and led for most of the fourth quarter.

Grabosky made a driving layup within the final minute of regulation to tie the score at 40 and force overtime.

Grabosky scored 15 points and Tighe had 11. Graham's Josh Schuler, a North Dakota recruit, scored 14 points, 10 fewer than his average.

Watterson won five tournament games in a season for the first time and advanced to a regional final for the second time.

"We practice that last-second play all year, and Chris got an open look and had time to shoot it," senior point guard Andy Winters said. "They were the No. 1 team in the state and nobody believed we could beat them, but we never doubted that we could win this game."

During the regular season, Watterson went 10-10 and finished fifth in the CCL at 3-7 behind DeSales (9-1), Hartley (8-2), Worthington Christian (5-5) and Ready (4-6), and ahead of St. Charles (1-9).

"After we lost to Ready (60-56 on Jan. 9) and Hartley (64-47 on Jan. 16 to drop to 5-5), coach told us that he needed to find warriors and that he would replace us if we weren't warriors," Winters said. "That was a gut-check for us, and even though we lost to good teams in Westerville South (45-40 in overtime Jan. 20) and DeSales (51-50 in overtime Jan. 23) in our next two games, that's when we turned the corner and started playing a lot better."

The Eagles won five of their final eight regular-season games. In the district tournament, eighth-seeded Watterson beat Mifflin 75-51 on Feb. 25, third-seeded Lakewood 70-41 on Feb. 28, fifth-seeded Olentangy Orange 44-41 in a semifinal March 5 and seventh-seeded Granville 68-42 in the final March 13.

Watterson will lose four seniors in Grabosky, Winters, Colin Boone and Joe Neary. Grabosky (13.7 points, 8.0 rebounds) and Winters (7.2 points, 5.5 assists) were first-team all-CCL and honorable mention all-district.

Four players who started multiple games are expected to return in Riddle (9.5 points, second-team all-CCL), Tighe (10.0 points) and junior post players Matt Schweitzer (6.1 points) and Matt Susi.

"Our seniors did a great job and we'll miss their leadership and on-court contributions," Lombardo said. "We'll have a lot of experience coming back and others moving up who had good success at the junior varsity and freshman levels, so I hope we can pick up where we left off and do it again next year."