GRANGER TWP. — Sometimes there’s nothing you can do but hand it to the winning team.
The Highland boys basketball team threw everything it had at Portage Trail Conference Metro Division-leading Woodridge on Tuesday but still fell 81-79 in overtime.
How hard fought was the effort by the Hornets (6-7)? Highland outrebounded the Bulldogs (12-4) 39-27, hit a school-record 17 3-pointers and started the second half by scoring 20 of the first 24 points.
Defense wasn’t an issue, as the Hornets rotated well to the open man.
Scoring wasn’t an issue, as Alex Jaworski (28 points, 8 rebounds), Ryan Chema (16, 10) Bryce Profitt (12, 10) and Cole Tessena (12 points, 6 assists) came through.
But sometimes hot teams stay hot and Woodridge, which is on a six-game winning streak, took the best the Hornets had to offer and still found a way.
“There needs to be a little more focus on defense,” Jaworski said. “I think we’re playing hard. They were just hitting some hard shots. Even when they tied the game at the end of regulation, it was a hard shot. We defended it well.”
The shot Jaworski was referring to came off the fingertips of Josh Decker with 7.7 seconds left in regulation. The 3-pointer tied the game at 72 and crushed Highland’s spirit.
“We can only make so many 3-pointers,” Chema said. “They just shot them in. (D.J. Snyder) just got off. That 3-pointer by Decker was huge. We thought we had it sealed off and then they hit and got all the momentum. It was tough to come back from.”
While Decker (13 points) will get a lot of the praise for his fortitude to step up and take the shot as the third option, it was Snyder who really went crazy by scoring 13 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter.
The 5-foot-9 senior was everywhere in a quarter where the Bulldogs shot 10-for-14 and matched Highland’s 27-point third quarter with a 27-point fourth to overcome a 13-point deficit.
“Woodridge is a team that can score the basketball, so you have to keep scoring,” Hornets coach Adam Cestaro said. “We had a little stretch where we missed a few and they took advantage. Snyder got hot shooting the ball. We have to do a better job of getting the hot guy under control.
“That’s probably our biggest thing is how to stop a guy that gets going against us. That’s happened to us several times this year and we haven’t had much of an answer.”
As nutty as the game was, Highland still had a chance to win it.
The Hornets withstood a 3-pointer to open overtime and cut their deficit to one on three occasions, the last after Snyder split a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left.
Highland raced up court and found Jake Osborne on a wide-open 3-pointer from the right corner, but Michael Massey (18 points) raced out to meet Osborne and got just enough of the ball as the buzzer sounded.
“You have to be tough-minded and execute down the stretch,” Cestaro said. “It’s great to see guys step up and shoot the ball in and play well. We always seem to find somebody. We’ve had a variety of leading scorers, which is great, but we have to do a little tiny bit more to get over the hump.”
The Highland junior varsity beat Woodridge 59-55 in overtime. Rob Huttner and Liam McFadden had 13 points apiece to lead the Hornets.
Woodridge 81, Highland 79 (OT)
WOODRIDGE 22 12 11 27 9 — 81
HIGHLAND 14 17 27 14 7 — 79
Woodridge — Josh Decker 5-0-13, Joe Mehalik 4-0-9, Elijah Arnett 3-1-7, DJ Snyder 9-5-28, Michael Massey 6-3-18, Jabron Driskill 1-0-3, Josh Fleming 1-1-3, Ben Lahoski 0-0-0. TOTALS: 29-10-81.
Highland — Bryce Profitt 4-2-12, Ryan Chema 6-2-16, Alex Jaworski 10-2-28, Cole Tessena 4-0-12, Jake Osborne 3-0-9, Tommy Williams 0-0-0, Connor Klein 1-0-2, Rob Huttner 0-0-0. TOTALS: 28-6-79.
3-point goals — Snyder 5, Massey 3, Decker 3, Mehelik, Driskil, Jaworski 6, Tessena 4, Osborn 3, Chema 2, Profitt 2. Rebounds — Woodridge 27 (Arnett 10), Highland 39 (Profitt 10, Chema 10). Assists — Woodridge 21 (Decker, Snyder, Mehalik 5), Highland 26 (Tessena 6). Records — Woodridge (12-4), Highland (6-7). Junior varsity — Highland 59, Woodridge 55 (OT).