BARBERTON — Alex Jaworski and Bryce Profitt led a spirited fourth-quarter rally for the Highland boys basketball team, but Jamair Blackmon spoiled the comeback and broke the Hornets’ hearts Friday.
The sophomore shooting guard buried a pull-up 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left, then stole the inbounds pass to give Barberton a 63-60 victory over Highland in an entertaining Suburban League American Conference matchup.
The Hornets erased a nine-point deficit and tied the score on two free throws by Jaworski with 1:34 remaining, only to have the Magics run down the clock for a final shot, which Blackmon drilled from 21 feet out on the left wing.
“We’re down (50-41) and we finally get it back even, then they hold it and we play great defense — and they still make a great shot for the win,” Highland coach Adam Cestaro lamented. “Alex and Bryce were instrumental in willing us back into the game, but I guess we were in too big of a hole to dig out of that late.”
The outcome continued a troubling trend for the Hornets (5-6, 2-4), whose last four defeats include losses by four, one and three points. This one was especially painful, featuring 13 lead changes and eight ties in front of a lively crowd.
Junior center Jaworski scored nine points in the final six minutes, including Highland’s last five, to finish with a team-high 18. He also grabbed seven rebounds.
Junior forward Profitt ignited the Hornets’ final push with five straight points early in the fourth, winding up with 17 points, seven boards and three assists.
“The up-and-down style of the game was exciting and the fans and the benches were into it, but when you come out with a loss, it winds up not being a lot of fun,” Profitt said.
“We got started too late and there was too little time left for us to pull out the win. As a team, we needed to come out with more fire and energy from the start, not wait until we’re down nine.”
Until Blackmon cloaked himself in glory at the end, the story of the evening was Barberton senior Jordan Soyars. The 5-foot-10 small forward made 12-of-17 field goals and 5-of-8 free throws in a brilliant 29-point performance.
Soyars, who entered the game averaging a conference-leading 25.5 points, also delivered a nifty behind-the-back pass in transition to Blackmon that gave the Magics (5-7, 2-3) their largest lead at 50-41 with 50 seconds left in the third quarter.
“He drives to the hole very hard and is very difficult to stay in front of,” Jaworski said. “He’s a really good scorer who finds a way to break down defenses.”
Cestaro also had nothing but praise for Soyars, saying, “We couldn’t figure it out tonight, but neither have many other teams this season. We tried a variety of different guys and a variety of different ways to guard him, but he’s strong and tough as nails, for sure.”
Senior forward Ryan Chema was solid across the board for Highland with seven points and game highs of 11 rebounds and five assists. Junior guard Jake Osborne added 11 points and senior guard Cole Tessena had five points and four assists.
Senior point guard Maxwell Littlejohn had 15 points on five 3-pointers for Barberton, which only had four players score. The lone reserve to put the ball in the hoop for either team was Highland senior Connor Klein, who had one field goal.
Rian Klein scored 12 points and Preston Grinder had 11 as the junior varsity Hornets beat Barberton 51-46.
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Barberton 63, Highland 60
HIGHLAND 20 10 12 18 — 60
BARBERTON 18 13 19 13 — 63
Highland — Bryce Profitt 6-2-17, Ryan Chema 2-2-7, Alex Jaworski 7-3-18, Jake Osborne 5-0-11, Cole Tessena 2-0-5, Connor Klein 1-0-2, Tommy Williams 0-0-0, Rob Huttner 0-0-0. TOTALS: 23-7-60.
Barberton — Santino Fox 1-2-4, Jordan Soyars 12-5-29, Ethen Elliot 0-0-0, Jamair Blackmon 6-0-15, Maxwell Littlejohn 5-0-15, Moses Petrie 0-0-0, Bradley Eagle 0-0-0, Chad Burkhard 0-0-0. TOTALS: 24-7-63.
3-point goals — Profitt 3, Chema, Jaworski, Osborne, Tessena, Littlejohn 5, Blackmon 3. Rebounds — Highland 35 (Chema 11), Barberton 25 (Fox 7). Assists — Highland 18 (Chema 5), Barberton 10 (Blackmon 3). Records — Highland (5-6, 2-4), Barberton (5-7, 2-3). Junior varsity — Highland 51, Barberton 46.