Late free throws power Olmsted Falls past Avon Lake
3/2/2014 6:16 PM
OLMSTED FALLS — There was no way Avon Lake senior Brad Hamilton was ready for baseball season to start.
Hamilton and the rest of the Shoremen gave host Olmsted Falls everything they had. But, the Bulldogs hit seven free throws in the final minute to hold on for a 54-52 Division I Grafton Sectional Final win on March 1.
Avon Lake, which came into the game with a seven-game winning streak, ends its season at 10-14.
“This is what tournament basketball is about,” Avon Lake coach Eric Smith said. “There was nothing they were going to do we didn’t know and nothing we were going they didn’t know. They made a play at the end.
“The last five weeks this has been the team we anticipated when we started on Nov. 1. It took us a while to get there for a lot of different reasons.”
Down 37-33 to start the fourth quarter, the Shoremen took a 42-39 lead with Hamilton (game-high 20 points and team-high 10 rebounds) using his 6-foot-5 frame to muscle in a layup. 
Olmsted Falls (17-6) tied the game with junior guard Nick Fritz drilling a 3. Fritz helped the Bulldogs regain the lead with his second 3 of the quarter and a layup by Kevin Meehan.
But Avon Lake showed its resiliency.
Christian Jones (14 points) hit a three-point play and Hamilton, who is a Kent State baseball recruit, tied the game at 47 with a pair of free throws with 1:03 left in regulation.
After Olmsted Falls split a pair of free throws, the Shoremen suffered a turnover that led to a pair of free throws to push Olmsted Falls’ lead to 50-47. After a missed shot, Fritz hit a pair of free throws.
Seth Muck made it a one possession game with a driving layup. Fritz, who scored 10 of his team-high 13 points in the quarter, made two more free throws to end Avon Lake’s season.
“Nick stepped up at the end,” Olmsted Falls coach Chris DeLisio said. “He hit two huge 3’s for us and at the free-throw line, he did a great job. He’s got a lot of guts (and) he’s not afraid of that moment.”
After beating Olmsted Falls about two weeks ago, Avon Lake played with confidence and unselfishness throughout the first half.
Hamilton scored seven points in the first quarter, while Jones buried a deep three to close the gap to 26-23 at the half.
Jones scored five straight points in the third quarter to give the Shoremen as 29-28 lead.
Olmsted Falls responded with a 9-4 run to hold the lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
“All these guys contribute in some way,” Hamilton said. “It’s nice because every single one of us feels comfortable (knowing) someone is going to get it done.
“Our coaches stuck with us when we were 3-13 and we all believed we could turn it around. The hustle each guy brought started to carry into wins.”
Olmsted Falls will play on March 4 at Midview High School against Berea-Midpark.
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