Big win buzzer-beater lifts unbeaten Ross basketball heading into conference season

Ross coach David Lane on his team this season, which is off to a 4-0 start: "This group is a very special group." FILE PHOTO
Ross coach David Lane on his team this season, which is off to a 4-0 start: "This group is a very special group." FILE PHOTO

Rams seek first conference title in more than 20 years

When the Ross High School boys basketball team took the court against Lakota East last weekend, the Rams knew it was a unique opportunity to prove themselves.

Other teams in their position might have been satisfied just trying to keep it competitive against a quality Division I program like East, but not Ross. The Rams wanted to win and came into the game ready to do so.

And in the end, they came away with a 53-51 victory on a buzzer-beating layup from Joe Schottelkotte to remain unbeaten.

“We’ve got six seniors, who are solid, four juniors and a sophomore, and those six seniors have been playing together since they were 3 or 4 years old,” coach David Lane said. “They play well together and they are not scared of anything. We were supposed to play Oakwood, but they were quarantined (because of COVID-19 contact tracing) so we picked up East, since they were open too.

“We had a couple games already that week, but the kids came out ready to prepare, and I think people thought we would just make it respectable and play it close but these kids wanted to win. They just get it. They understand what needs to be done, they know how to approach it and go out and handle business.”

East twice had leads of nine points, but the Rams made some defensive adjustments and improved their communication in the second half and never buckled under the pressure.

After Ross (4-0) hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 51, East had the ball with about 90 seconds left and ran the clock down for what it hoped to be the last possession. However, the Thunderhawks missed a 3-pointer from the corner with about seven seconds left, Sam Nunn grabbed the rebound off C.J. Boze’s tip, fired off a pass to Schottelkotte and watched as his teammate made the game-winning bucket.

The Hawks, two-time defending Greater Miami Conference champions, hadn’t lost a game since Jan. 7, 2020, ending an 18-game winning streak.

“Its not typical at Ross that you play top-tier teams like Lakota, Moeller and those guys, so when you get the opportunity you have to make the best of it,” Lane said. “It shows we can play with anyone, that if we buckle down and put our minds to it, we can beat anybody.”

Ross hopes that translates into a successful run in the Southwest Ohio Conference as well. The Rams have not won a conference title in more than 20 years, Lane believes, and that’s the goal every year.

The program has been on the rise since Lane took over in 2017-18. Brian Gunter resigned following a 6-17 finish in 2016-17 and overall record of 18-51 in three seasons, but the Rams put together back-to-back 15-8 seasons under Lane and they finished 17-7 last year. Five of their losses were in-conference last year, as Mount Healthy collected a second-straight SWOC title.

Ross routed Mount Healthy 72-44 the night before beating East. Lane still expects to have to “battle in night in and night out” against the SWOC teams, including the rematch against the Owls, but this team is capable of a title.

“This group is a very special group,” Lane said. “When I started, they were all freshmen, so this is the four-year turn-around, the first group to go through the program, and they’ve just bought into the culture. It’s a special group. None of it would happen without the kids. They work their butts off, buy into what we’re doing, they are responsible. I know they will respond to what I’m telling them. They are unselfish and willing to do whatever they need to as a team to win, and it’s starting to show and I think people are starting to recognize how special this team can be.”

The Rams are led by Nunn (16 points, 7.3 rebounds), Jimmy Booker (15.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Max Stepaniak (14.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg). They are scheduled to play Northwest at home on Friday.

Chance reaches milestone…

Lakota West girls basketball standout Chance Gray reached the 1,000-point benchmark on Dec. 12 when she scored 34 points in a 79-62 win over Colerain. The 5-foot-9 junior guard hit the milestone in her 55th game and joins her sister, Amber Gray, in that feat. Amber, a 2008 graduate of West, did it in her 52nd game during the 2006-07 season, according to a post on Twitter from their father, Carleton Gray.

“Proof is in the pudding,” Carleton Gray posted. “Been putting in work in the lab for a long time, developing game skills… not tricks.”

Amber Gray holds several program records, including most points in a game (41), season points total (523), points per game in a season (21.5), career points (1,931), season rebound total (271) and career rebounds (925).

Chance Gray is sitting at 1,047 career points and leads the GMC with 25.8 points per game this season, adding 6.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.3 steals per game. West (4-2) is set to play Middletown (0-3) on Saturday.

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