Cougars shock top-ranked Eastern on overtime buzzer beater

Max Cohen ('12)/Eastside Editor-in-Chief

Jake Gurkin (’12) gathers the rebound with four seconds left, passes to Jesse Gold (’12), Gold gives the outlet pass to Marc Schlessel (’12) who lays it in as time expires! The scoreboard reads 60-58 in overtime as the Countrymen storm the court! Down goes number-one ranked Eastern!

This is all a Cougars fan needs see to remember one of the all-time great games when East took down top-ranked Eastern at Eastern in overtime, 60-58. This was one of those games that could be labeled an instant classic.

The first quarter was evenly matched for both teams. Gary Hettinger (’13) started the scoring with two free throws. Eastern scored down five straight points, but their run was halted by a Schlessel three which tied the game. The Cougars were down 11-8 towards the end of the quarter, but Hank Davis (’13) hit a three to tie the game at 11 to end the scoring in the quarter.

The second quarter started with a Gurkin bucket on which he was fouled and made the free throw to give the Cougars a three-point lead. Schlessel heated up in the second, as he hit two threes, the second of which put the Cougars a 22-15 lead. The Cougars led 24-19 as they went into their last possession in the half. Jake Silpe (’15) handled the ball as the Cougars readied to take the shot when he encountered some tough defense and momentarily lost control of the ball on the ground. However, with about two seconds remaining he regained control of the ball on the floor and passed it to Davis who drained a three to give the Cougars the 27-19 lead heading into the locker room.

The Cougars picked right up where they left off to start the third, scoring the first five points of the quarter on two Schlessel free throws and a Schlessel three. However, Eastern refused to go away despite the Cougars’ strongest efforts. After a Davis layup gave the Cougars a 38-27 lead, the Vikings scored four straight points. Then, Gurkin scored on a nice feed from Silpe to give the Cougars a nine-point lead. The Vikings answered mightily as they pressured the Cougar offense which caused troubles. Eastern scored six straight points to end the quarter as the Cougars held a slim three-point lead heading into the fourth.

Gurkin started the fourth quarter with a bang as he rejected an Eastern player which led to a Schlessel layup on the other end to give the Cougars a 42-37 lead. With 5:50 left and the Cougars leading 42-39, Gurkin hit a beautiful hook which elicited an electric reaction from the crowd. After another Eastern bucket, Schlessel hit a floater to keep the lead at five. After yet another Eastern basket, Schlessel hit another floater to give East the four-point lead at 48-44. Eastern then went on a 5-0 run to take a 49-48 lead. With 1:06 left, Eastern hit a free throw to extend the lead to two. The Cougars answered back, as Silpe took it to the hole himself, hitting a leaner to tie the game at 50. However, Eastern scored on their next possession, making the Cougars’ hopes look dim. With only about 10 seconds left, Silpe had the ball in his hands to determine the outcome of the game. As he drove into the lane and put the ball up to the basket, his shot missed. However, Gurkin made a spectacular play to tie the game up at 52 by tipping the ball into the basket on the rebound with only two seconds left. It appeared as though the clock had run out during regulation and the game would be going to overtime. However, Eastern was granted one last chance by the officials as two seconds were added onto the clock. Eastern missed the last-second desperation heave, so the game went into overtime.

If it seemed as though the game could not get any more exciting, it did in overtime. The extra session started off slow, but an Eastern travel with 3:18 left allowed Schlessel to hit a three for the Cougars on the ensuing possession to give the Cougars the 55-52 advantage. Eastern responded by knocking down two free throws on the next possession to cut the lead to one. Eastern hit another layup to take the late lead at 56-55. Then, Gurkin responded right away by hitting a huge three from the top of the key to give the Cougars a 58-56 lead. Eastern responded once again by hitting a shot from a very close distance after a mad scramble for the basketball to tie the game at 58. The Cougars failed to take the lead on the ensuing possession, so Eastern had the opportunity to win the game as they inbounded the ball with 20.3 seconds left. The Vikings missed a wide open three which would have given them the late lead with about seven seconds left. It looks as though the game will head into double overtime. Well, Jake Gurkin, Jesse Gold and Marc Schlessel had something different to say about that. Gurkin gathered in the rebound off the miss with four seconds remaining. He passed the ball quickly to Gold who displayed the vision of a true quarterback in gunning the ball downcourt into the arms of a streaking Schlessel who was open heading towards the basket. Schlessel caught the ball gracefully as he laid it in the net to give the Cougars the win. A sea of red flooded onto the court to celebrate. Game. Set. Match. 60-58. Cougars win one of the greatest high school basketball games anyone in attendance has ever seen.

Player of the Game: The whole game was unreal, a case could be made for everyone. Schlessel with his 27 points and the heads-up play on the winning basket by speeding downcourt and having the discipline to still hit the shot, Gurkin for his 17 points and 10 rebounds, Gold for his unbelievable pass on the winning play and Davis for his huge eight points off the bench and the buzzer-beater to end the first half.

Bottom Line: Everyone wins.

Key Stats

Schlessel-27 points

Gurkin-17 points, 10 rebounds

Davis-8 points