By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —
Senior guard Josh Vass gave the Edgewood student section a gift Friday night. The Warrior faithful returned that gift to the team half a minute later as the Warriors came back from a 24-point deficit midway through the third period to shock Fairport, 73-70.
Down, 70-60, with 3:30 remaining, Edgewood found some life as Louie Wisnyai tallied a bucket. Dylan McCaleb followed with a steal and a basket and Wisnyai scored again to get the Warriors (4-2) within four, 70-66, with 2:33 to play.
Thirty-five seconds later, Vass took a pass from Andrew Konczal and drilled a 3-pointer from the corner to get the Warriors within one to get the Edgewood students riled up.
“Everyone went crazy,” McCaleb said. “This place was insane. The fans are great. The whole team got an adrenaline rush.”
That shot was a long time coming for Vass.
“I figured (Konczal) would (get the ball to me),” Vass said. “I never think (when I shoot).
“It was a big adrenaline rush. (The crowd reaction) just made it 10 times better.”
“I’ve been waiting for him to hit that 3 all year,” Edgewood coach John Bowler said. “He finally did and it was with good timing. He’s a really good player off the bench.”
With the Skippers’ Tyson Lautanen at the line, the Edgewood students sent a wall of sound through the gym that rattled the rafters. Lautanen missed both attempts.
Vass then delivered again on the other end with a rebound and a bucket to put the Warriors ahead, 71-70.
“Like I said earlier, I have faith in my teammates, but I always try to prepare to get the rebound,” Vass said.
Lautanen, fighting the Edgewood students yet again, missed two more free throws with 14.9 seconds left.
“I wouldn’t want to be in that situation here (as a visiting player),” Wisnyai said.
After an Edgewood rebound, McCaleb was fouled and went to the line at the other end and connected on both attempts in the bonus to seal the Warriors’ fourth-straight victory.
“We always prepare for those moments,” McCaleb said. “Coach tells us to concentrate and it paid off in the end.”
Fairport (2-2) opened the second half with a 21-4 flurry to go up 57-32 with 3:28 to play in the period.
“Coach just said to try and get it back to about 15 at that point,” Wisnyai said. “I think, in our minds, we were trying to get it back all at once.
“We just really started to outhustle them toward the end of the game and we could kind of tell they were starting to give up.”
During a two-minute span, Edgewood cut that deficit by more than half, to 58-46, with 53 seconds to play in the third. After a Fairport basket by Jaques Williams, Wisnyai drained a bucket at the buzzer.
The Warriors and Skippers basically traded baskets for the first four and a half minutes of the final period before Wisnyai touched off the 13-0 run to close the contest.
“Our offense revolves around our defense,” Bowler said. “Defensive intensity picks up our offense. We’re a bit of a moody team. When things are going bad, we have a hard time. Then we hit a shot or two or something good happens, momentum changes and everything starts to click for us.
“That’s why I wasn’t worried. Well, when you’re down 20, you worry a little bit. I have a lot of faith in my guys. They always play hard and never give up.”
Ryan Greenwood’s 3-pointer with 5:08 to play in the first quarter touched off a 22-2 Fairport run as the Skippers took a 25-6 lead with 6:43 to left in the half.
Lautanen scored 13 points in that first 9:17 on his way to 20 for the game.
Over the next 4:14, Connor McLaughlin scored eight points, Wisnyai four and Joey Zappitelli three as the Warriors closed the gap to just four, 27-23, with 2:33 to play in the half.
Conventional three-point plays from Ryan Ondo and Kyle Burchett and a another free throw from Ondo had the Skippers up, 34-23, with 1:17 to go.
McCaleb led the Warriors with 19 points, Wisnyai added 16 and McLaughlin 10. Zappitelli and Konczal (11 boards and six assists) each chipped in with eight points.
Greenwood scored 16 points for the Skippers, Logan Dennison had 12 and Burchett and Ondo each had seven.
Fairport coach Matt Cardina was not available for comment after the game.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.