Streetsboro boys basketball breaks through against Norton

·4 min read
Norton's Nolan Dobben, right, gets a pass off around Streetsboro's Bryce Vecchio during the second half of a basketball game, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Norton, Ohio.
Norton's Nolan Dobben, right, gets a pass off around Streetsboro's Bryce Vecchio during the second half of a basketball game, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Norton, Ohio.

NORTON — No team in the Metro Athletic Conference has given the Rockets more trouble than the Panthers.

So, needless to say, no matter how fast the start — and the Rockets started plenty quickly Friday — it was going to take everything to put the Panthers away.

Leading nearly the entire way, but always having to battle, Streetsboro emerged with a 46-41 win over host Norton Friday and sole possession of first place in the MAC.

"I thought the guys just worked their tails off," Rockets coach Nick Marcini said. "That's what Norton does. I mean you look at their scores all year. They're going to keep you in the forties and slow it down and they do a great job of imposing their will. Fortunately, we were able to get out."

Streetsboro thus snapped a string of five straight losses to Norton.

"I've never beat Norton, not once ever," said senior Bryce Vecchio, who led the Rockets with 20 points Friday. "This feels great. This is the best feeling ever."

Streetsboro surges early in the fourth

With what had been a 13-point advantage long gone and trailing by one to start the final quarter, the Rockets (9-2, 8-1) retook the lead on a superb scoop finish from junior guard Brevyn Nobles. Senior guard Devin Reese stole the Panthers' ensuing inbound for another layup and a 35-32 advantage.

That lead held up.

Barely.

Norton senior Cole Newman ensured the drama would continue into the final minute with a corner 3-pointer to draw within one (41-40) with 36.6 seconds remaining.

Streetsboro quickly sent its ensuing inbound to Reese, who calmly swished a pair of free throws with 32 seconds left to push the lead to three.

"He wants that," Marcini said. "It's not like the kid hasn't been in the situation before. He's won sectional titles at the line, he's won league titles at the line, so that's where he wants to be."

Streetsboro's Devin Reese, right, shoots over Norton's Nolan Dobben during the first half of a basketball game, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Norton, Ohio.
Streetsboro's Devin Reese, right, shoots over Norton's Nolan Dobben during the first half of a basketball game, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Norton, Ohio.

The Panthers drew within two when they split a pair from the line with 18.1 seconds remaining, but Vecchio was able to rebound the second free throw amidst a crowd.

Fouled after his rebound, Vecchio, too, hit his first free throw and missed the second, but Rockets junior Micah Schuster leapt in for the offensive board, drew a foul and drained both free throws with 12.5 seconds left to put the Rockets back up by multiple possessions.

"That seals the deal," Marcini said. "That kid, he didn't play a second in the second half, he comes in for two possessions, gets that freaking huge rebound and seals the deal at the line. That says a lot about that kid's character. He's awesome."

Bryce Vecchio gets off to a scorching start

For a moment, it appeared the Rockets might blast off and leave the Panthers behind, as Vecchio hit all four of his 3-point tries in the first quarter. That included back-to-back treys to snap a tie and give Streetsboro a 14-8 lead at the first quarter break.

"He saves his best shooting performances for these big games," Marcini said. "His first and only three of the year [prior to tonight] was that game-winner at Woodridge and these were his next threes."

With Norton turning the ball over at an alarming rate, Streetsboro led by 14 (21-8) two minutes into the second quarter and nine (25-16) in the final minute of the first half.

But beating the Panthers would not come easy.

Norton made that clear with 5-0 runs to end the second quarter and start the third.

"We just had to call some timeouts, kind of settle them down a little bit," Panthers coach B.J. Sanderson said. "I think when you're young like we are, I think that sometimes you just have that 'oh crud' moment and then we figure it out."

With the Panthers down four (25-21) at the half, senior Nolan Dobben (12 points) tore past Vecchio for a bucket, then knocked down a 3-pointer for their first lead since 4-3.

Norton's Nolan Dobben celebrates after the Panthers took the lead over Streetsboro during the third quarter of a basketball game, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Norton, Ohio.
Norton's Nolan Dobben celebrates after the Panthers took the lead over Streetsboro during the third quarter of a basketball game, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Norton, Ohio.

The teams exchanged baskets from there, neither team leading by more than a point, until the Rockets scored four straight early in the fourth to take the lead.

"Our kids always play hard," Sanderson said. "I love them to death. They know their effort is always appreciated. Streetsboro has scored two games this year under 50 and both were to us."

Streetsboro, then, held that lead, fighting tooth and nail until the final buzzer.

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Streetsboro boys basketball breaks through against Norton