Last five minutes pushes Pettisville past Fayette, 44-36

By Joe Blystone - For the Expositor

No one expects anything different when Pettisville and Fayette get together.

Each big hoop is answered by one from the opposition and every run is countered by the same.

After going back and forth all night, it was the Blackbirds who had the final burst with a 12-2 margin in the last 5:19 to knock off Fayette, 44-36, Tuesday in Buckeye Border Conference boys basketball.

The Blackbirds are now 9-2 on the year.

“Every time we play Fayette it’s a dogfight,” Blackbird coach Brian Leppelmeier stated. “You have to keep grinding and keep grinding because it’s a four-quarter game and I was never comfortable until it got down to the last 10 seconds. We’ve been up here in double overtime games or nights when we miss free throws and they hit threes. It’s just one of those games.

“Pettisville and Fayette is always fun. Coach (Todd) Mitchell is always well-prepared and it’s just good hard-fought basketball.”

Five points from Phillip Whiteside and two moves inside courtesy of Elijah Lerma pushed the Eagles up 9-7 with 2:40 left in the first.

Joey Ripke’s baby hook brought the Blackbirds even but Kaden Frenn answered with a baseline jumper to again give the Eagles a two-point lead.

Senior Josh Horning canned two shots from about 12 feet to regain a Pettisville lead, then Max Leppelmeier looked like Tom Brady when he dropped a 70 foot throw into the bottom of the well to end the first quarter, giving the Blackbirds a 16-11 lead.

Leppelmeier’s drive, the senior guard’s lob pass to Cayden Jacoby for a bucket and another Horning jumper boosted the Blackbirds up 22-11 with 6:10 to go in the half.

But like the never-ending story goes, Fayette came right back.

Frenn’s left-side drive, Tanner Wagner’s putback off his own miss, a Frenn pump-and-go move against Jacoby and two more Wagner one-on-one moves brought the Eagles back to a single point at 22-21 at the break.

After shooting 58 percent in the first quarter, Pettisville was just 3-10 in the second — missing their last seven shots.

Meanwhile the Eagles went 10-19 for a 52 percent clip.

Pettisville’s cold shooting (4-20) continued in the third, but a 15-6 rebounding edge, many on the offensive end resulted in two Jacoby third-chance stickbacks and yet another jumper by Horning to put the Birds up three late.

“The way they were scheming their defense and the people they left open if we missed a shot we needed to get our hands on the basketball,” explained Leppelmeier. “Zakkai Kaufmann, Josh Horning, and Joey Ripke got us a lot of second opportunities because if you aren’t making shots you need to create those chances.

“Josh has been working on that,” said Leppelmeier of Horning’s ability to knock down shots. “I really think he’s effective below the free throw line when someone gives him that, it’s a big differrence from a 17-footer to a 12-footer. I think when he catches it in rhythm, I mean those are big points he has given us the last few games.”

Wagner’s dish to Skyler Lester on an out-of-bounds play at the third quarter horn again got the Eagles within a point heading to the fourth.

Wagner’s long-range howitzer tied the game at the 7:23 mark, and Tyrese Pearson got ahead of the pack on a fastbreak bucket to give Fayette a 34-32 lead.

This time it was Pettisville’s turn and Leppelmeier’s bomb from the left side with 5:19 to go that gave the Blackbirds the lead they never let go of again.

Leppelmeier scored on a pump-and-go, and Jacoby knocked in six straight, two baskets on offensive rebounds with Whiteside’s drive the only answer.

“We kept them from attacking the rim in the second half,” Leppelmeier said of the last big run. “They are great shooters from outside and we needed to close down the lane and stop their dribble penetration.”

The Blackbirds had a number of chances to ice the game at the line but Leppelmeier twice missed on the front-end of the bonus before Ripke split a pair with 27 ticks to go.

After going 7-12 in the opening quarter, the Birds finished just 19-53 compared to Fayette’s 16-42.

The key stat of the night was that Pettisville was guilty of just two turnovers.

“That’s a big improvement from last night at Montpelier (a 43-32 Blackbird win),” expressed Leppelmeier. “I thought we did a good job not forcing it into Cayden tonight and we had to have that good movement around the perimeter and I thought we did that.”

Fayette actually was pretty clean as well with only nine miscues.

Jacoby led Pettisville with 16 points, while Leppelmeier had 15 and Horning 10.

Wagner led Fayette with 12.

By Joe Blystone

For the Expositor

Reach Joe Blystone at

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