Connor Hulihan started it and finished it.
The 5-foot, 11-inch senior guard hit a 15-footer with five seconds left in the second overtime to give Delphos St. John’s a 48-46 win over Lima Central Catholic on Sunday in their annual rivalry game.
Way back at the beginning of the game he had scored St. John’s first nine points on a pair of three-pointers and three free throws when he was fouled while attempting another three.
All that came in the first two minutes of the game. Over the next 37 minutes, 55 seconds he didn’t score again until he hit the game winner, going 0 for 6 from the field and 0 of 2 on free throws.
“Obviously, he got us going. He has the capability of being streaky like that. To go that long without another bucket until the winning shot in overtime is quite a story,” St. John’s coach Aaron Elwer said.
Hulihan said, “It was hard to just keep shooting and watch it not go in. But I looked for other ways to help the team.”
When he let the decisive shot go, he knew his luck was about to change, though. He knew he’d helped the team in a big way. “It felt good,” Hulihan said.
LCC had a huge shot of its own to get the game to overtime when 6-foot, 8-inch post player Mark Janowski grabbed a rebound, sprinted to the three-point line and hit a shot at the buzzer in regulation to tie the game.
Until then, the two teams had slogged through four quarters in which they were knee deep in defense. The ball wasn’t going into the basket and the crowd at the Monsignor E.C. Herr gymnasium wasn’t really into the game.
LCC led 19-17 at halftime, it was tied 28-28 after three quarters and at 35-35 at the end of regulation.
But after Janowski’s shot, the offenses and the intensity in the gym both picked up.
“It was two teams battling it out on a day when the offensive execution wasn’t great for either team. We pride ourselves on getting stops and so do they,” Elwer said.
Collin Will scored 13 points, all of them in the second half, to lead St. John’s (6-4). Hulihan had 11 points and Richard Cocuzza scored 10 points, with all of those also coming in the second half.
Ron Banks scored 14 points to lead LCC (4-7). Janowski had 11 points and Matthew Cecala scored 10 points. The Thunderbirds played without point guard Biggz Johnson who did not play because of reasons that were “just internal,” LCC coach Frank Kill said.
Will said Janowski’s shot was momentarily deflating but St. John’s bounced back from it.
“That was just a great shot by them, a great hustle play to get it off. It kind of deflated us a little bit because we were working so hard but we just had to go out there and keep fighting,” he said.
Janowski also scored with 10 seconds left in the first overtime to tie the game again and send it to the second OT.
The game-winning shot wasn’t intended to belong to Hulihan, but LCC shut down the play St. John’s wanted to run.
“He wasn’t the option. We had a set called, a quick hitter and we wanted to run it at a certain time but they did a really good job of getting ball pressure and denying our first entry,” Elwer said. “So Collin kind of made a move to get to the rim or get fouled and they kind of over helped and there was Connor standing in the corner.”
LCC coach Frank Kill said, “I thought we played a lot better in the last two overtimes.
“I thought the first half was just two teams that really buy into defense. I really liked how we were playing (defensively) but we just couldn’t get anything going offensively, which has a lot to do with what St. John’s does defensively,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.