By Josh Brown
TROY — In the biggest moment of the season, Troy Christian senior Colt Tanner took a second to register what needed to be done.
Luckily, the Eagles have a prime directive in that specific kind of situation — and it was just his turn to make the big play.
“I didn’t really know what I needed to do for a second. Then I realized I needed to take a shot,” Tanner said. “And thankfully, it went in.”
Trailing Metro Buckeye Conference co-leader Dayton Christian by one point in the final 10 seconds, Connor Case drove the lane and missed a potential go-ahead basket, only to have Jackson Kremer grab the offensive rebound and kick out to a wide-open Tanner, who calmly buried the game-winning 3-pointer with one second left on the clock, propelling the Troy Christian boys basketball to a stunning 44-42 victory over the Warriors Friday night at the Eagles’ Nest to give the Eagles sole possession of the league lead.
The win was the Eagles’ 10th straight, making them 14-2 overall — and, more importantly, 8-1 in MBC play, while Dayton Christian fell to 10-5 overall and 7-2 in the league. At the start of January, four teams — Troy Christian, Yellow Springs, Legacy Christian and Dayton Christian — were all tied atop the league standings, and the Eagles have knocked them off one by one since, culminating in the final seconds of Friday’s game.
And Troy Christian coach Ray Zawadzki has every one of his players ready for that situation.
“We have a rule — if it’s coming in to out, you’ve got to let it fly,” he said. “And Colt Tanner has just been stroking the ball really well in practice and in our last few games. I’m so happy, not just for him, but for our team.
“It was not designed, obviously. You have to start by giving Jackson Kremer credit, too. He could have hung his head after missing an easy bunny play that we set up for him about 30 seconds earlier. But he did not — he got us an offensive rebound and found Colt Tanner.”
Tanner took a second to figure out what to do with the ball only because he didn’t expect to get the chance. But once his opportunity came, he didn’t miss it.
“Honestly, I thought Connor Case’s shot was going to go in. He hit a game-winner earlier this year,” Tanner said. “And I love my boy Jackson. I’ve played soccer with him for three years, so I know he’s got ups. I know he attacks and plays hard and does whatever he can do. I saw him go up for the rebound, and I knew we still had the chance.
“Looking back, I probably should have crashed the boards. But it worked out.”
Almost lost in the thrilling finish was the accomplishment of senior James Anderson, who became the second Troy Christian player to reach the 1,000-point plateau for his career. Needing only two points entering the night, Anderson hit one first-quarter free throw and then was fouled with one second remaining in the first half, hitting both to push himself over the milestone.
“It feels good, but what feels better is coming out with the win,” he said when asked about the milestone. “My man Colt Tanner hit that 3 with one second left to put us up by two, and that was huge. Being able to step up and hit shots like that is ridiculous. It’s just a big, big, big step up. And that puts us on top of the conference, too, so now we’ve just got to execute the rest of the season and just keep getting better.”
Anderson may have been held without a field goal in the first half and to only three points at the break, but he showed his strength in the second half. He made a spin move along the baseline early in the fourth quarter and hit a reverse layup that gave the Eagles an eight-point lead at the time, scoring six of his team-high 12 points in the final quarter as the Warriors mounted their furious comeback.
He finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, playing possibly the strongest half of his high school career in the second when the Eagles needed it most.
“We’ve seen James do it before. That’s why he committed to Saint Francis within the last week,” Zawadzki said. “He’s going to excel at the next level. He’s made those plays all year. He’s just a special kid and a special player, and I’m going to miss him so much.”
“My teammates know how good I can be,” Anderson said of how his game went up a level in the second half. “Sometimes I come out a little flat or don’t play my best, and my teammates get on me. If I’m not scoring, I have to rebound and play good defense. I know I have to play my best for these guys and help the team win.”
Another play that proved to be key came in the first half’s final second, after Anderson had hit his free throws to put the Eagles up 19-16.
Dayton Christian attempted to throw a deep pass beyond the half-court line, but the pass sailed straight out of bounds, taking no time off the clock and giving the Eagles one more in-bounds play under their own basket. And Ben Schenk found Kremer cutting to the basket unguarded, and Kremer quickly hit a layup as time expired to give Troy Christian a 21-16 lead at the break.
“We haven’t worked on that play. That’s an old JV play that my assistant coach used on the JV level,” Zawadzki said. “Luckily, Jackson remembered it from last year when he was on JV. It’s just a quick dive down, everyone thinks we’re going to James, and it leaves a wide-open lane, you put a shooter in the corner so that bottom guy’s got to worry about that — and Jackson just did a great job.
“Gosh, I mean every kid did something tonight. That’s been our success all year. James is always going to fight and get his even though people are double- and triple-teaming him, but we always have somebody else step up. Ben Schenk had nine, Colt had eight and Jackson Kremer had 10. What more can you ask for? You spread that around four guys and that’s real good basketball. We live by the team concept. We may only have one all-league player, and not one of those kids care.”
Kremer finished with 10 points and five rebounds, Schenk had nine points and five assists, Tanner had eight points, five steals and four assists, Cameron Strine had three points and Case scored two points.
Matt Welker led all scorers with 14 points for the Warriors, Aaron Webb had 11 points, Luke Swenger scored seven, Ryan Fair and J.T. Thornhill had four apiece and Shawn Van Noy had two points and eight rebounds.
Just like the first meeting between the teams — the Eagles’ only loss in MBC play — the Warriors didn’t quit, though.
Troy Christian led by as many as 10 at 26-16 early in the second half after a 9-0 run, but Dayton Christian — which outscored the Eagles 20-3 in the fourth quarter to steal a 44-36 win back on Dec. 15, 2017 — rallied again. A three-point play by Welker tied the score at 37-37 with 3:19 to play, and a Welker 3 with 1:38 to go gave the Warriors their first lead of the game since the opening quarter at 42-41.
“We learned from that (first meeting),” Zawadzki said. “Over at their place, we had the same lead. It was the same type of game, and here they came. But this time, I used every timeout I had. I still had three on the board over there. I made a mistake there, I apologized to the kids, and tonight I learned from it. Tonight, we were able to regain our composure, got into some sets, got some easy buckets — just a little different scenario.”
And even though Kremer missed a back-door lob with 38 seconds to go, and even though Case missed a shot in the closing seconds, Kremer was there to clean up the miss and get it to Tanner for the game-winner.
Because it was simply his turn.
Even if it takes him a while to figure it out.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” Tanner said. “I’ll probably be laying in bed later on and realize exactly what just happened.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.