- Associated Press - Saturday, March 22, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The play wasn’t even designed to go to Marsalis Hamilton.

Yet he hit the shot heard ‘round the state.

Hamilton hit a tying 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer, and Associated Press first-team All-Ohioan Kipper Nichols hit two clinching free throws in overtime to propel Lakewood St. Edward to a 62-58 victory over Upper Arlington on Saturday night for the Division I state championship.

“I was counting in my head. Tony (Vuyancih) wasn’t open. Kipper wasn’t open,” Hamilton said. “I took a dribble to get some room and let it go - and it hit the bottom of the net.”

A laughing Nichols said he couldn’t have been happier that the designed play didn’t develop.

“Marsalis started to dribble, and I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Nichols said. “I thought our season was over.”

St. Ed coach Eric Flannery expressed something less than confidence in Hamilton.

“I don’t want to say I don’t have confidence in Marsalis, but when he shot the ball I was kind of like, ‘Oh!’” he said. “But it went in. Unbelievable.”

In the overtime, Nichols stepped to the line with St. Ed (26-2) hanging on to a 60-58 lead with 5.8 seconds left. He drained both to clinch the Eagles’ second title and first since 1998. They had been thwarted six other times in the state tournament.

“It was a lot of luck and working hard,” Nichols said. “And never giving up.”

Danny Hummer and first-team all-stater Kevin Vannatta each had 15 points for the Golden Bears (27-2), who were seeking their first championship since 1937. The Golden Bears led most of the game but were never on top in the overtime.

It appeared UA would pull the stunner after making two 3s late in regulation.

Vannatta made a 3 over Nichols on the left wing. After Nichols was long on a 15-foot jumper, Wes Davis poured in a 3 from the left foul-line extended, and the lead was 48-42 with 3:21 remaining.

St. Ed, scrambling on defense and rushing back on the break, cut it to 48-47 when Hummer was fouled with 35 seconds left. He made both, part of a clutch 6 for 6 showing at the line.

Vuyancih then drove to the basket and hit a layup to make it a one-point game. Inbounding under the St. Ed basket, UA’s Vannatta threw a pass to midcourt to a streaking Hummer who hit the layup with 11 seconds left for a three-point lead.

St. Ed brought the ball down the court and called timeout with 4.7 seconds left. Hamilton inbounded in front of his bench and the ball came back to him. He released the shot with just over 2 seconds left and hit nothing but net.

“We were trying to be sure that Nichols or Vuyancih didn’t get the shot,” UA coach Tim Casey said. “We were going to take our chances with the other guys. That kid just made a big shot.”

The Eagles won the overtime tip and held onto it until Malcolm Waters drove with 1:49 left and hit the bucket. He missed the accompanying free throw.

Hummer was fouled and made both at the other end, then fouled St. Ed’s 6-foot-9 sophomore Derek Funderburk on a follow, the post hitting both clutch shots.

Vannatta then missed a 3, and St. Ed threw a long pass to Vuyancih for a layup with 41 seconds left for a 58-54 lead.

With 33.6 seconds left, Hummer made two more foul shots for UA to cut the lead in half. But Waters was fouled while driving to the hoop and went to the line with 22.5 seconds left. He made both, and the advantage was again four points.

A 3 by Vannatta spun out, but Logan Richter hit the follow with 8 seconds left to cut the lead to 60-58.

St. Ed put the ball in play under the UA basket and Hamilton threw a long pass to Nichols, who was fouled with 5.8 seconds left - and he made both to lock up the title.

It was a superior game, with UA shooting 59 percent from the field in a losing cause. St. Edward, ranked No. 3 in the final AP regular-season poll, shot 62 percent and was pressed to the final seconds.

“We pulled it out,” Flannery said. “You need a little luck, you need some big shots, you need some big plays. And we happened to get that tonight.”


Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP

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