Kirtland senior T.J. Green was in the right place at the time in Kirtland’s 57-54 win over visiting Geneva on Friday.
With time winding down, the Hornets ran a play to free up Joey Grazia in the corner. Instead, Gage Sullivan scooped up a loose ball and heaved a prayer toward the basket. The ball bounced off the rim but Green was there for the rebound and fade-away put-back as time expired.
“It’s better to be lucky than good sometimes,” said Kirtland coach Shawn McGregor. “We ran one of our sets to Anthony DeMarco off the dribble to hopefully get Joey in the corner with T.J. on the block. Of course, it broke down and Gage Sullivan made an aggressive play to the basket. T.J. made a great offensive rebound and put-back that won the game.”
Green was fouled on the play as well and he went on to convert the and-one for good measure.
“We were trying to get a run to the rim and it didn’t work out like that, but we took advantage of the opportunity,” said Green, who finished with 24 points. “It was awesome to have an entire crowd cheering for your team; it was a lot of fun. It was a once in a lifetime moment on Senior Night; a fun, hard-fought win.”
That moment might not have occurred had in not been for Kirtland’s persistence.
After taking a 29-27 lead into the locker room at halftime, the Hornets got outscored in the third quarter, 22-7, leaving Geneva out in front, 49-36.
Aiden Richmond, who led all scorers with 27 points, and Anthony Kosicek, who finished with 17, paced the Eagles during that run.
That duo combined to score all 22 of Geneva’s third-quarter points.
“Our defensive intensity just wasn’t good,” McGregor said. “Their two guards, Richmond and Kosicek, had huge third quarters and they really hurt us with their penetration and finishing so we moved to man in the fourth quarter.”
McGregor challenged the Hornets to respond in the final eight minutes and they used the entire quarter to forge their comeback.
“We played great defense and outscored them 21-5 in the fourth,” McGregor said. “The kids took the personal challenge to stop letting those guys get to the rim and we made enough plays down the stretch to win against a very well-coached and tough-nosed team. I have a lot of respect for Geneva’s program. They play hard and do a lot of good things.”
With a team-high 24 points and 14 rebounds, Green notched his third straight double-double.
“He just did a good job of finishing around the rim,” McGregor said. “That’s three games in a row where he had 23, 21, and 24. He just does the dirty work. He gets a lot of offensive rebounds. He’s a big, strong kid that runs the floor really well. He knocked down clutch free throws throughout the fourth quarter. He does a lot of good things. He doesn’t ever complain and he’s just a great kid, as all the kids are, but T.J. has really stepped up his senior year. He’s just playing phenomenal basketball at this point.”
Grazia contributed to the win with 11 points while DeMarco and Sullivan both finished with seven.
The Hornets, who improved to 7-5, host Riverside at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.