Landen Angel had the golden touch once again Tuesday night, hitting a last-second shot to ignite a Ross High School boys basketball celebration.
On the other side, the Monroe Hornets didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
That’s how it went for two teams navigating in opposite directions this season. Ross is 14-7 after the 44-42 victory on its home court, winning for the 10th time in its last 12 games. Monroe is 5-16 and has lost 15 of its last 16.
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“It seems like we’ve been in this position a lot lately, playing a close game and coming from behind,” Rams coach David Lane said. “It would be nice if we could execute for four quarters, but these guys never give up. It’s just a blast coaching these guys when they do that. They also give me a heart attack sometimes.”
Ross had to overcome a 35-28 deficit in the last five-plus minutes and did it behind Angel, who tallied 12 points the rest of the way en route to a 26-point performance.
The Hornets’ Shawn Poindexter made a layup to create a 42-42 tie with 43.8 seconds left. The Rams worked the ball around at the other end and eventually got it to Angel.
The senior drove just past the foul line on the right side of the lane. He jumped and floated briefly before letting the ball go, and the shot was true as time expired.
“I knew once it left my fingertips it was going in,” Angel said. “If it was my sophomore or junior year, I would’ve been a little more nervous. But senior year, I kind of take control. Once I get the ball in my hand, I’m more than comfortable and feel like I can get anything done.”
The Ross student section joined the celebration on the court after the buzzer went off. Angel loved it, but conceded that was something the students weren’t really allowed to do.
“We’ll probably have a meeting tomorrow sometime in the morning to kind of discuss their actions,” Angel said. “But let the kids have fun every once in a while.”
The postgame party certainly didn’t extend to the visitors’ locker room, where Monroe pondered an almost ridiculous run of bad fortune.
The Hornets’ losing streak got extended to eight. They’ve taken 12 single-digit defeats. And they’ve lost by 5 points or less 11 times.
“I don’t feel bad for myself. I feel bad for the kids,” Monroe coach Kenny Molz said. “I know at some point this is going to turn around, hopefully next year. If we just invest a little more in the offseason and take the motivation from this year of seeing how close we are to being a pretty good basketball team, it can be a complete flip-flop of a year.”
Tristan Backas had 13 points and seven rebounds, Will DeBord scored 12 points on four 3-pointers, and Poindexter chipped in 10 points and five boards for the Hornets.
Three of DeBord’s treys came in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Monroe had a familiar flurry of last-period turnovers that helped Ross erase its 7-point deficit.
“That’s a little bit of age difference and physical maturity. We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores on the floor, not a lot of varsity experience,” Molz said. “I thought we handled their pressure pretty well for the majority of the game. Sometimes we just kind of clamp up at the end, and that’s when those mistakes happen.
“The best way to get rid of those is to keep playing. In the offseason, play against people that are better than you, more physical than you, and then take all this experience from this year and learn from it. We’ve got everybody returning except one guy next year, and that’s a really good thing.”
Molz said he liked Sam Jeffers’ defensive play against Angel and added, “He scored 26, but it was a hard 26 points. It was a rare time that he got an uncontested shot throughout the course of the game.”
“They did a great job defensively,” Lane said. “They do a good job of packing in and communicating and switching when they need to switch. They do a really good job when we’re driving of moving their feet, playing with their hands and kind of riding us out. That’s a testament to their coach.”
Dylan Zimmerman marked all 8 of his points in the second half for Ross, and Ben Yeager had four steals. Angel put up 18 points after halftime.
Lane said Angel’s game-winning shot should bolster his already strong bid for the Southwest Ohio Conference Player of the Year award.
“That’s just a senior leader making a play for his team,” Lane said. “That’s what all those hours in the gym do for you.”
The first-year head coach said his players feel like they’re going to win whenever they set foot in the gym this season.
“Last year when we’d get down by 6, 7, 8 points with a couple minutes to go in the fourth, that’s when the lead would extend to 15, 16,” Lane said. “This year, we buckle down, lock in defensively, do what we need to do and execute.”
Both teams will end the regular season at home Friday. The Rams will face Talawanda, while Monroe plays Brookville.
MONROE (5-16): Tristan Backas 4 5 13, Shawn Poindexter 4 1 10, Caimanne Turner 1 1 3, Will DeBord 4 0 12, Nick Osterman 1 0 2, Tyler Hendricks 1 0 2. Totals: 15-7-42
ROSS (14-7): Dylan Zimmerman 2 3 8, Ben Yeager 1 0 3, Landen Angel 10 3 26, Sean Lange 1 0 2, Cooper Shields 1 0 3, Cody Geers 1 0 2. Totals: 16-6-44
3-pointers: M 5 (DeBord 4, Poindexter), R 6 (Angel 3, Zimmerman, Yeager, Shields)