Buffalo's Levi Jordan slices inside for a basket.
SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. - They who live by the turnover will perish by the turnover.Andrew Cosper hit an off-balance leaning shot at the buzzer Saturday night to give St. Marys a thrilling 63-61 comeback victory over error-prone Buffalo in the Division I title game to cap the third Hometown Invitational at the Summersville Arena and Conference Center.After Buffalo's Isaiah Robinson took a feed from Levi Jordan and hit a floater in the lane to tie it at 61 with 20 seconds left, St. Marys got the ball into the front court and called timeout with 7.4 seconds remaining.The ball was inbounded to Cosper, who spent a few frantic seconds dribbling around the top of the key while being dogged by Buffalo guards Laythen Good and Robinson.
Cosper picked up his dribble and appeared trapped by the double team with time winding down. But he stepped under the defense and elevated just inside the 3-point line and knocked down an 18-footer as the buzzer sounded."Coach drew up a good play for us right there,'' Cosper said, "but I think I might have actually [messed it up]. I was supposed to come off that cut and look down on the block."I caught it and they were in my face and I just kind of dribbled around to try to make something happen. I threw up a prayer and it got answered. Once I let it go, I kind of had a good feeling for the ball. I knew it was going to be on target. I didn't know if it was going to be short or long. I got a nice little roll.''
Buffalo (15-2), which had a six-game winning streak snapped, led by as many as nine points in the first half and was still up by four with about five minutes left, but left the door open for Cosper and St. Marys by committing 11 of its 21 turnovers in the second half.Back-to-back turnovers by the Bison turned a 54-all tie into a 59-54 St. Marys lead with 2:10 left as Cosper scored five straight on his way to a team-high of 20 points (with five steals).The Bison, however, caught back up at 59 on a 3-pointer from the right corner by Good and a Jordan driving shot, the latter with 38 seconds remaining.Cosper, who tallied his team's final nine points, drew a foul near halfcourt with 32 seconds on the clock and knocked down both free throws for a 61-59 lead, setting the stage for Robinson's tying shot and the final heroics.
The leaner by Cosper prevented Buffalo from repeating the HIT crown it won last year against East Hardy in a game played in Elkins."It went in,'' said Buffalo coach Chuck Elkins of Cosper's game-winner. "It happens. I watched a college game last night and somebody got beat when someone threw it in from halfcourt."I thought our kids played really well. I think St. Marys is a quality team and I think tonight we proved we were a quality, team. I think we can play with about anybody. We made a few mistakes that really hurt us. We had a couple missed opportunities, but other than that, I can't fault our effort. We stuck to our game plan and we kept the pressure on them.''Buffalo, the No. 6 team in the Class A poll, normally employs pressure defense all over the floor in order to make up for a lack of height. It worked somewhat against the taller No. 7 Blue Devils (16-3), forcing them into 18 turnovers, but the Bison lost quite a few possessions itself with its own mistakes.
"We threw the ball away a lot,'' Elkins said, "and a couple of those turnovers really weren't bad. They were dropped passes. We tried to do a couple things we shouldn't have tried to do."But that's what it's all about - playing a good quality opponent and seeing where you're at. I'm pretty pleased where we're at.''Robinson played one of his best games, finishing with 19 points on 8 of 12 shooting, six rebounds, six assists and four steals. Jordan provided a double-double (14 points, 14 rebounds), and Dylan Rich (11 points) and Good (10 points) also found their way into double figures."Charlie Elkins has one heck of a basketball team,'' said Blue Devils coach Mark Barnhart, "and we knew that coming down. We knew they were fast and they defended like there's no tomorrow. When you see a team that's 15-1 with nobody over 6-1, you know they're fast and you know they defend."We like to think we defend, too, but in the first half they made us look pretty bad. We had to adjust some things we do defensively, and I thought we did a little better at boxing out, especially in the third quarter. We looked at [Buffalo's players] and thought that wasn't necessary because they were smaller than we were.''Also for St. Marys, which shot 53 percent, John Bayless had 17 points and eight rebounds and 6-foot-4 Connor Lancaster 14 points and six boards. Buffalo managed a 36-23 edge in rebounds.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.