Friday night was “MORP” night at Northwest, “morp” being “prom” spelled backwards, so tacky was the student dress code.
The Ross Rams pulled off a basketball version of their own reversal on the court. Senior guard Landen Angel scored 13 of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, including nine on 10 free throws, and blocked the Knights’ last-ditch 3-point attempt to seal Ross’s come-from-behind 50-47 Southwest Ohio Conference win.
MORE HIGH SCHOOLS
»RELATED: Benson’s blocks preserve Hamilton win
»RELATED: Friday Night Scoreboard
The win was as much a watershed moment for Angel and his fellow seniors as it was for the entire Ross program.
“I’ve never beaten them — not even as a freshman,” Angel said. “It feels really good.”
Besides snapping Northwest’s SWOC winning streak at 16 games dating back to last season, the Rams snapped a personal nine-game varsity losing streak against the Knights. The last time Ross beat Northwest on Jan. 12, 2013.
It also tightened up the league race. Ross (10-7, 7-3) is alone in second place behind the defending-champion Knights (10-7, 8-1). Northwest has three remaining SWOC games, the Rams two. Mount Healthy (7-12, 5-4) is scheduled to play host to Northwest on Saturday night.
“This is huge because it gives us momentum late in the season,” Ross coach David Lane said.
Northwest, which shared the 2014-2015 SWOC title before winning the last two outright, led 36-23 with 2:22 left in the third quarter. The Rams cut that to single digits by the end of the quarter on junior guard Ben Yeager’s 3-pointer with 10.2 seconds left. Yeager, who finished with four 3-pointers, opened the fourth quarter with two more before Angel was fouled while sinking a putback and made the free throw to whittle Northwest’s lead to 43-37.
The Knights missed four consecutive free throws to open the door for Ross to take its first lead on senior Cody Geers’ two free throws with 1:09 left. Steven Grau sank two to regain the lead for Northwest, but Angel gave the Rams the lead for good, 47-46, with two free throws with 30.3 seconds left and added three more to clinch the win.
“There’s nobody I’d rather have at the free throw line,” Lane said.
“I know my job is to produce points at the end of games,” said Angel, who went into the game leading the SWOC in scoring and tied for the lead in rebounding. He made as many free throws in the fourth quarter as Northwest made in the game.
The Rams also helped themselves by turning up their defensive pressure in the fourth quarter, forcing the Knights into more turnovers than they had committed in the previous three quarters combined.
“When we play up-and-down, we’re more energized, but it’s hard to do that for an entire game against a team like Northwest,” Lane said.
The Rams committed nine turnovers in the first half, helping Northwest lead by as many as 10 points twice in the second quarter before settling for a 28-19 halftime lead. Grau scored seven points to lead a balanced Knight offense that included four players each sinking one 3-pointer. Angel and Yeager each scored five to lead Ross before halftime.
The Knights turned the ball over just three times before halftime.
The Rams return to SWOC action on Tuesday at Talawanda.