J.T. Yoho hit a half-court shot as a freshman in the first game of his high school career to send the game to overtime. His team, Eastern Greene High School in Solsberry, Ind., ended up losing that game by one.
Yoho and his new team, Wright State, had better luck Thursday night at Green Bay.
The 6-foot-6 freshman forward, the most accurate 3-point shooter in the Horizon League, drained a 3-pointer from five feet behind the line with 8 seconds left in double overtime gave the Raiders a 70-68 victory over the Phoenix.
“Time was running down,” said Yoho, who scored a career-high 19 points. “I had the ball at the top. They were playing us 3-2. The wings were denied. My shot was feeling good all night. I might have shot it early, but it went in.”
Wright State coach Billy Donlon said, “He made a heck of a shot.”
Green Bay called time-out after Yoho’s shot, and then Alec Brown missed a jumper at the buzzer.
The Raiders (16-8 overall) celebrated a victory that gave them sole possession of third place in the Horizon League. Only the teams picked to finish one-two, Valparaiso (8-2) and Detroit (8-3), are ahead of Wright State, the team picked to finish last, with five conference games remaining.
The Raiders, who have won two straight after losing three in a row, bused to Milwaukee after Thursday’s game. They play the last-place Panthers (5-19, 1-9) at 8 p.m. Saturday. Milwaukee lost 82-74 at home to Detroit on Thursday.
“We’ve got to take it one at a time,” Donlon said. “You can only worry about the next game, the next possession. It’s an emotional rollercoaster.”
This was an improbable win in many ways for Wright State. The Raiders fell behind 24-10 after 12 minutes. It was the second straight game they trailed by 14 points. Three days earlier, they rallied from 14 down — and 13 down with 6:34 to play — to beat Loyola 62-59 at the Nutter Center.
“We’ve been there a lot,” Yoho said. “Coach always tells us there’s still time. We keep that in our heads. Don’t hit home runs. Hit singles.”
“There was a time-out with 12 minutes to go when we had eight points,” Donlon said, “and I said, ‘Fellas, that number will go up. But they scored 18 points in 12 minutes. They’re on pace to get over 40 in the half, and we’re not going to beat them if they do that.’”
The Raiders responded and trailed only 32-28 at halftime thanks to Miles Dixon’s shot at the buzzer.
Dixon’s 13-point game was just part a terrific performance by Wright State’s bench. Dixon, Yoho and Jerran Young, who scored 13, accounted for 43 of Wright State’s 70 points. The highest-scoring starter was Cole Darling with seven points.
Wright State made 11-of-20 3-pointers, its best performance of the season. That helped make up a huge discrepancy at the free-throw line, where Green Bay made 23-of-33 and Wright State made 5-of-6.
“I do think it was a well-officiated game,” Donlon said. “I would have said that if we had lost.”
In the second half, there were five ties, but the Raiders only had the lead twice, and they were brief leads. The Raiders trailed 51-46 with 4:14 left, but Young hit a 3-pointer with 3:57 to go. After Greg Mays made 1-of-2 free throws, Yoho tied the game with a 3-pointer with 1:57 to play.
That would be the last basket of the second half. Brown missed a layup with 1 second left, and after a timeout, Yoho got off a half-court shot that missed.
In the first overtime, the Raiders fell behind 56-52, but Tavares Sledge hit two free throws, and then Matt Vest tipped in a shot with 2:03 left.
Green Bay answered with four free throws over the next minute by Keifer Sykes. Then with 41 seconds left, Yoho hit another big 3-pointer, cutting the deficit to 60-59. Sykes got the line twice more with 33 seconds left and again at the 20-second mark, hitting 2-of-4.
The Raiders trailed 62-59 when Miles Dixon hit a 3-pointer with 1 second left. The officials reviewed the play to see if he had stepped on the line, but he didn’t.
“I couldn’t see. His back was turned to me,” Donlon said. “I was directly behind him. People across the court were saying it was a two. It was scary. With one second left, we probably weren’t going to win if it was a two. His big toenail stayed behind the line.”
Green Bay had a great shot to win the game at the buzzer in the first overtime. Brennen Cougill caught a long pass and missed a wide-open jumper inside the 3-point line.
The second overtime went back and forth. A 3-point play by Sledge tied the game with 4:11 left. Then Cole Darling’s jumper tied the game again with 2:01 left.
Darling played just 19 minutes and wasn’t on the court for many of the big sequences late in the game. Reggie Arceneaux, who scored six points, was in and out of the game, too, as freshman Joe Bramanti played many big minutes.
“Some guys are struggling right now,” Donlon said. “Reggie’s not playing great. I’m not down on him. He’s just a sophomore. He’s a great player.”
Green Bay took its final lead, 68-67, with 31 seconds left when Brown made 1-of-2 free throws. Brown led the Phoenix with 17 points. Sykes scored 16.
Down one, the Raiders had plenty of time to set up for the final shot, but Yoho stepped up and drained the big 3-pointer. He said his teammates’ main message to him after the game was, “I love you.”