In the Chick-fil-A Classic at Richland Northeast, the host Cavaliers defeated Keenan 55-54 in overtime on Thursday.
With possession to start the extra session, the Raiders held the ball to draw Richland Northeast out of its zone defense, and with 1:37 left went to the hoop to go ahead 50-48.
Then Aaron Cooke, who had been 2-of-8 from the field in the first period, proved the hero for the Cavaliers. With a minute to go, he sank two free throws to tie the game. After Keenan’s Marcus Stroman went coast-to-coast to put Keenan back in front, Richland Northeast got the ball with 2.2 seconds to go.
Cooke sank the game-winning 3-point bucket at the buzzer.
“When we called a timeout at 14 seconds, we had another play and it was wide open, but my guy didn’t want to give it Aaron,” RNE coach Jason Powell said. But the Cavaliers (8-1) executed just right on their final shot.
“Players make plays and (Aaron) made a play,” Powell said.
“This was a great game tonight and it came down to whoever was going to get that last shot,” Raiders coach Zach Norris said of a game that featured seven ties and 11 lead changes.
Starting the second half at a 9-point deficit, the Cavaliers put up furious rally that narrowed the gap to two after one minute of second-half play.
Stroman’s five consecutive points bought the Raiders breathing room, but not much.
With 11 minutes to go, Quiron Cooke knotted the game with a three-point jumper, and Kendall Benjamin put the Cavaliers ahead for the first time on the next possession.
But still shooting 34 percent from the field, Richland Northeast could not get far ahead. Though the Richland Northeast zone gave the Raiders some trouble, Stroman broke through to put Keenan back in front at 9:32.
When a Stroman layup put the Raiders ahead at a minute to go, the Cavaliers answered with two Benjamin free throws to pull even at 48 with 40 seconds to go. Then Anderson blocked the Raiders attempt at go-ahead layup, forcing overtime.
Norris felt the Raiders improved from their opening night outing, but troubles communicating were again a periodic stumbling block.
Led by Stroman, the Raiders went on an 8-0 run that put them up by 11 with 5:26 to go.
But Richland Northeast’s Devante Anderson kicked the Cavaliers into gear on defense, slowing Keenan’s advance and knocking the Raiders off track.
Keenan was scoreless for the final 4:35 of the half, but still held a 19-10 lead at the break.