It was far from a well-oiled offensive machine.
And rather than a free throw shooting clinic, it was a free throw shooting fiasco.
However, when Liberty Center was up 45-41 with 24 seconds left and poised to ruin Pettisville’s homecoming night, the Blackbirds said “No Way Jose,’”.
But the ‘Jose’ in this instance came in the form of Joey Ripke, who canned a fade away jumper from the right of the foul line with half a tick left to boost the Blackbirds over the Tigers Saturday, 46-45.
“You just keep playing,” said Blackbird coach Brian Leppelmeier. “Basketball can be such a messy and unpredictable game sometimes. We talked to our guys about that, you have to keep playing every possession.
“We have had opportunities this year with those kind of shots (that Ripke hit) and they haven’t went in. Tonight late those shots did go in so sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit lucky.”
Aiden Hammontree and Evan Conrad combined for all 10 Tiger first quarter points and had Liberty Center up 10-9 late when Ripke, with defenders hanging all over him, nailed a foul line jumper at the buzzer to give the Blackbirds an 11-10 lead.
The teams traded points until Jaret Beck’s drive and bank with 3:09 left in the half gave Pettisville a 19-15 lead.
Conrad and Hammontree countered before the half to bring the Tigers even at 19-all.
With Pettisville holding a 24-23 lead, Zakkai Kaufmann hit a triple and got a stickback and Cayden Jacoby put in a pair from the line to give Pettisville their biggest lead at 31-23 with 2:21 left in the third.
Colton Chambers’ pair of pull-up jumpers brought the Tigers within 33-28 heading into the fourth.
The Tigers continued to chip away until the 2:04 mark of the final stanza when Landon Kruse tripled to put the Tigers up for the first time since the first quarter.
After Kruse hit both ends of the bonus for a 42-39 margin, the ensuing foul fest turned into a debacle at the stripe.
Jacoby had a chance to bring the Birds close but only split.
Kruse did the same at the other end to keep Liberty up 43-40 and after being fouled on the rebound, Ripke went just 1-2.
The Blackbirds put Conrad on the line with 40 seconds to go where he also went just 1-2, as did Wyatt Leatherman 16 seconds later to put the Tigers ahead 45-41.
The Blackbirds got the ball to Beck near the head of the circle, and after the junior guard mishandled the rock, he regained control and launched a triple try that went off glass and dropped through, bringing the Birds back to a one-point deficit.
Conrad was immediately fouled on the inbounds and missed both to give Pettisville one more shot.
A Blackbird timeout with 4.1 left gave Leppelmeier a chance to set up one last play.
Ripke ended up receiving the ball, and going left to right, the sophomore lefty faded away from just right of the foul stripe and his shot nestled into the net.
“We came down the court, trying to get the broken floor after the free throw and if we got something easy in that time we were going to take that,” explained Leppelmeier.
“Really we had Joey as a first option and Cayden could spring him free. Joey caught it knowing that if they came hard to close on him he would have Cayden on the other side of the floor with it cleared out.
“It was either Joey taking the shot or Cayden with a hook which we know he can hit that too. We tried to put our guys in a position where they could hit one and he just made a heckuva shot.”
Controversy was abound in the last half second as after a timeout, the horn sounded in the middle of Liberty’s inbound pass that hit the opposite wall out of bounds without a touch by any player on the floor.
The half second was put back on the clock but the Blackbirds were awarded possession where the inbounds pass was touched and time ran out.
Pettisville shot 14-32 from the floor while Liberty Center was 17-46.
The Blackbirds were 16-26 from the foul stripe for just 61 percent, but that looked liked the Golden Egg compared to the Tigers’ 9-23.
Jacoby had 15 points and Beck 12 to lead Pettisville, while Conrad has 16 for the Tigers.
Pettisville has a big Buckeye Border contest this Friday with Edon at home.