Neuqua Valley wins OT thriller to capture Wheeling crown

It was a dogfight to the finish between clearly the best two teams at the 45th annual Wheeling Hardwood Classic boys basketball tournament which took overtime to decide between Neuqua Valley and Glenbrook North Saturday night.

A fantastic fourth-quarter finish by the Wildcats erased a 50-41 lead by the Spartans with 5:07 to play. Neuqua Valley (13-3) went on a 9-0 run after that point to force the extra session tied at 50-50.

In overtime, two free throws by Neuqua Valley's John Bieber (12 points) put his team ahead 57-53 with 15.1 seconds left before tournament Most Valuable Player Luke Kinkade (game-high 25 points, 4 rebounds) hit two more free throws with 10.8 seconds to seal an exciting 59-57 victory for the team title of this powerful 16-team tourney.

"It was definitely a grinder. They're a tough team, we out-toughed them the whole game I think. That's what we need to do every game, and we did it," said Kinkade, whose team was outrebounded 28-26 in the hard-fought contest. "It's definitely momentum for the next conference game and for the rest of the season. But it's nowhere close to where we're going to be at the end of the season."

Bieber hit two free throws in the second quarter, including a buzzer-beater to cut Glenbrook North's lead to 27-24 at the intermission.

The Spartans (14-2) were solid offensively throughout the game behind the guard play of seniors Josh Fridman with 19 points and Sam Lappin with 18 points. But trailing 55-53 in overtime, Fridman committed a huge turnover when he stepped on the end line with 15.8 seconds left in overtime leading to the two free throws by Bieber.

Senior Joe Balgro also had a big game for the Wildcats with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists while teammate Colin Gerrity was also a key factor with 9 points and 7 rebounds.

"I like to say players make plays and by golly some of our guys made some tremendous plays tonight, just great plays," said Neuqua coach Todd Sutton. "I thought Joe Balgro made some just absolutely monster plays late in the game, and fourth quarter with offensive rebounds. Of course Luke's making all kinds of phenomenal plays, and two 3's by John (Bieber) in the second quarter got us back in the game and those are big momentum plays."

Glenbrook North also got 8 points from Patrick Schaller while teammate Owen Giannoulias had 9 rebounds.

"Credit to them, they made more plays down the stretch than us," said Glenbrook North coach Quin Hayes, whose team had two turnovers in the final 40 seconds of overtime. "They made some key plays down the stretch, but it was a great game."

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