Orion boys' basketball team falls in double overtime at super-sectional

Mindy Carls
Orion's Caleb Nesbitt fights through a double-team in the paint during the super-sectional game with Winchester West Central on Tuesday, March 8, in Jacksonville.

Watching the ball drop through the net, most Charger fans thought Orion had tied the score at 45-45 to force another overtime with a berth at state on the line.

But when they looked up at the scoreboard, they saw Winchester West Central 45, Orion 43.

A traveling call had wiped out the basket with 2.1 seconds  to go in the super-sectional game on Tuesday, March 8, in the Jacksonville Bowl.

But the Chargers need not have been in position to lose. They established a 12-point lead with two minutes to go in the first half, and they had the Cougars on their heels.

West Central’s players were tired, leaning over with their hands on their knees at every break.

But a burst of energy at the end of the first half continued into the second half, allowing the Cougars to slash away at the Charger lead.

West Central outscored Orion 9-8 in the third period, and the Cougars had a 17-10 advantage in the fourth to bring on overtime.

Even though the loss made for a long ride home to Orion—many fans reached their homes at 1 a.m. or later—the Chargers still had a lot to take pride in.

The 2010-11 team had set a school record for boys’ basketball with 30 wins.

They had reached the super-sectionals for the third time, and the first time in 16 years.

Because the IHSA?had doubled the number of classes to four, and decided to take only four teams to the state finals, the super-sectional game represented the first Elite Eight appearance for Orion boys’ basketball.

Now that program, year in and year out one of the most successful at the school, will have its first banner hanging in the gym.

West Central 45, Orion 43

Charger fans appeared to fill more than a third of the 4,000 seats in the Jacksonville High School facility.

About six minutes before warm-ups started, Todd Kahley, father of player Zach Kahley, started the wave.

As the “Rocky” theme played, Charger fans chanted “We Are Orion,” followed by “OHS.”

When warmups finally began 15 minutes before tip-off, the Charger players entered the gym to the theme from “Superman.”

Orion fans went crazy cheering everything, from the introduction of the national anthem singer to the announcement that the Chargers would be introduced following the national anthem.

When the game finally began, Tanner Williams tipped the ball to Travis Anderson, who passed to Danny DeBacker. Caleb Nesbitt put the first points on the board right in front of the West Central fans.

The Cougars tied the score at 2-2 with Dylan Guthrie driving into the paint at 5:30.

West Central took the lead for the first time with Corey Barnett nailing two free throws. Seconds later, Parker Day popped in another free throw for a 5-2 lead.

But Day missed the second of his free throws, and Trent DeDecker grabbed the miss. At the other end of the floor, Zach Kahley whipped the ball to DeBacker at the top of the key. DeBacker drilled the three to knot the score at 5-5 with 3:42 to go in the period.

The Chargers regained the lead when Williams drove the lane for two points.

After West Central tied the score at 7-7, Williams hit for two again.

Barnett scored for West Central to deadlock the score at 9-9.

With 1:38 on the clock, DeDecker stripped the ball from Blake Lomelino under the West Central basket.

The Chargers were unable to capitalize on the play, though about a minute later Lomelino hammered DeDecker under the basket and the Charger made the first of his freebies for a 10-9 lead.

Early in the second quarter, a Cougar tightly guarded by DeBacker passed to Andy Adams. Seconds later, Williams found the range for a 12-9 lead.

With 5:34 on the clock, DeDecker scored on a putback for a 14-9 lead.

Adams put in two for a seven-point lead, which grew to nine when Cougar Jordan Boehs was careless with the ball and Kahley stole it and ran the length of the floor for a basket.

With 2:52 on the clock, Guthrie netted two free throws for the first Cougar points since 2:14 in the first period.

Williams hit for two to give Orion a 20-11 lead.

As the clock ticked under 2 minutes, Nesbitt grabbed a West Central miss. At the other end of the floor, DeBacker hit for three and a 23-11 lead that brought huge cheers from Charger fans with 1:50 on the clock.

But before the half ended, the Cougars got two points from Day from the field and two more from Barnett at the free-throw line.

The Cougars finished the first half with only four field goals.

As the third quarter began, turnovers plagued both teams.

West Central scored the first basket from the fingertips of Guthrie.

Orion threw a sloppy pass that led to Guthrie netting a free throw. Suddenly, the Chargers’ 12-point lead was down to five points at 23-18 with 6:39 on the clock in the third.

The Chargers pulled themselves together. Their press resulted in DeBacker stealing a pass. At the other end of the floor, Williams scored the first Charger points of the half on a tip-in at 5:55.

At the other end of the floor, Day missed and Williams snagged the rebound.

The effort paid off when Adams scored for a 27-18 lead.

West Central scored the next six points, starting with baskets by Guthrie and Wes Buhlig.

Another bucket with 2:16 to go pulled the Cougars within three at 27-24.

DeDecker gave Orion a little breathing room when he twisted through lane for two points at 1:10.

In the final seconds of the third, the Cougars missed a shot. DeDecker cleaned up the bord and passed to Nesbitt, whose outlet pass went to DeBacker.

DeBacker took the ball up the floor, and Nesbitt finished up with a putback for a 31-24 lead.

With only eight minutes to go before glory, Charger fans filled the bowl with “Go Big Red.”

The fourth quarter started with the Cougars being very aggressive as they went for steals.

Guthrie netted a free throw to pull West Central within six at 31-25.

The Cougar press kept the Chargers from crossing the time line, but Williams blocked a Cougar shot and the block sent the ball to a Charger.

A Guthrie foul put Nesbitt at the line, and he made the first of his freebies. Barnett grabbed the miss, but Williams stole the ball.

At the other end of the floor, Williams missed his shot. Nesbitt hauled down the miss and scored for a 34-25 lead with less than seven minutes to go.

Day and Anderson each converted old-fashioned three-point plays, with Orion holding a nine-point lead at 37-28 with 6:27 to go in the game.

After Day scored in the paint, the Cougars slowed the tempo with about five minutes to go. It paid off, with Luke Nash scoring to drag his team within five at 37-32.

Buhlig stole the ball, with the payoff a Day basket.

With their lead trimmed to 37-34, the Chargers got a free throw from Williams.

Then Boehs passed to Buhlig for the basket that trimmed the Cougar deficit to two with 4:01 remaining in the game.

Nesbitt kept Charger hopes alive with a putback at 3:40.

A Guthrie free throw reduced the deficit to three at 40-37.

About 2 1/2 minutes ticked off the clock before anyone scored again.

Day stole the ball and scored to pull West Central within one at 40-39 with 1:14 left in regulation.

DeDecker hit the first of two free throws to give Orion a two-point cushion with 34 seconds on the clock.

When DeDecker missed the second freebie, Nesbitt went for the rebound and drew a foul.

Guthrie missed the front end of a one-and-one. He grabbed the rebound and put the ball through the iron to tie the game with 32 seconds to go.

In overtime, the Cougars outscored the Chargers 4-2. Boehs dropped in a free throw midway through the four-minute extra time.

Williams swished two free throws at 1:42, giving Orion a 43-42 lead.

But Guthrie answered with a freebie to tie the score 15 seconds later.

Guthrie and Day each hit free throws for a two-point Cougar lead at 45-43.

That set up the dramatic scenario at the end.

Williams was the only Charger in double figures. He finished with 13. Nesbitt added nine; DeBacker and DeDecker, six; Adams, four; Anderson, three; and Kahley, two.

Day led all scorers with 17. Guthrie chipped in 15.

DeBacker had the only threes for either team. He hit two.

Orion made seven of 14 free throws. DeDecker shot 2-for-3; Williams, 3-for-5; and Anderson and Nesbitt, 1-for-2.

West Central put in 15 of 27 free throws.