GRANGER TWP. — When Collin Rittman’s buzzer-beater sank Tallmadge 70-67 in double overtime of a Suburban League American Conference game, no one stormed the court.
Not a single Highland boys basketball player had any energy left to do anything but applaud, and maybe they were all ready to climb into their cars Monday night and prepare for a non-league game with Woodridge tonight.
Or maybe it’s that the Hornets (6-5, 4-1) expected Rittman (30 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) to do what he’s done so many times during a career that now has 992 points.
“You saw at the end. We didn’t storm the court,” Highland coach Adam Cestaro said. “We didn’t go crazy. We’re a pretty even-keeled team. We don’t get too low when things go bad. When things go well, we don’t get too high. That’s the personality of a lot of our kids, and it’s beneficial in sticky situations in games like that.”
The buzzer-beater wasn’t a thing of beauty, but neither was the game. That said, Rittman’s shot from the left elbow was true.
Double-teamed as time ticked down, he sort of half-cocked the shot from the side as he was falling away, and it found the bottom of the net to end a back-and-forth contest.
“He’s like our safety net,” Cestaro said. “I think his sophomore year he came off the bench early in the season and then after that it was, ‘Just put in Collin. We’ll be OK. He’s been an incredible scorer throughout his career here.
“He’s moving in on 1,000 points, and he makes the game much easier for the whole team because we can count on him for a bucket.”
The heart the Hornets showed in the victory was trumped only by the poise they had down the stretch.
Trailing 45-29 with 6:06 left and seemingly not having an answer for SL leading scorer Matthew Francesconi (19 points) and Sam Seeker (12), Highland found an extra push to go on 22-6 run and send things into overtime.
That would have been enough for the crowd to get excited, but a corner 3-pointer by Pete Gmitric (14 points) with 7.4 seconds left added to the drama.
If that wasn’t enough, Rittman, who assisted Gmitric, sunk a layup with 4.4 seconds remaining to force a second overtime.
“I was happy with our team,” Rittman said. “We don’t get too high and we don’t get too low. We stay the same. It’s what we all do. I’m just happy we pulled it out in the end.
“Tonight was huge. It was against one of our rivals. We know them pretty well. They know us really well. It was a gritty game that came down to the end. Our heart is huge. We have shot-makers and people who aren’t afraid to find the open guy and feed the hot hand. That helps immensely. We can score in bunches and get up and down the court. That’s for sure.”
That was evident in the first overtime, when Highland erased a five-point deficit with 1:29 left.
“We were down nine against Revere in the fourth quarter and struggling against Buckeye down by 10 at halftime, and we won both of those games,” said Cestaro, whose team also got 14 points from Jarrett Smith. “We’ve seen it before.”
The Highland junior varsity beat Tallmadge 51-42. Tommy Williams led the Hornets with 17 points.
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.
Highland 70, Tallmadge 67 (2OT)
TALLMADGE 8 14 16 13 12 4 — 67
HIGHLAND 9 10 10 22 12 7 — 70
Tallmadge — Zach Boyd 3-0-6, Seth Gergely 4-0-8, Sam Seeker 4-4-12, Jake Rensel 3-0-9, Matthew Francesconi 7-4-19, Brandon Heigelmann 4-0-9, Nick Hussing 1-0-2, Lucca Passarelli 0-0-0, Jason Grassie 1-0-2. TOTALS: 27-8-67.
Highland — Collin Rittman 12-5-30, Ryan Frederick 1-1-4, Landon Mazzocco 4-0-8, Jarrett Smith 5-3-14, Jake Rogers 0-0-0, Cole Tessena 0-0-0, Pete Gmitric 5-0-14, Connor Klein 0-0-0, Ryan Chema 0-0-0, Alex Jaworski 0-0-0, Devin Myers 0-0-0. TOTALS: 27-9-70.
3-point goals — Rensel 3, Francesconi, Heigelmann, Gmitric 4, Rittman, Smith, Frederick. Rebounds — Tallmadge 35 (Francesconi 8). Highland 28 (Rittman 8). Assists — Tallmadge 15 (Seeker, Francesconi 4). Highland 15 (Rittman, Smith, Rogers 4). Records — Tallmadge (6-3, 3-2), Highland (6-5, 4-1). Junior varsity — Highland 51, Tallmadge 42.