FLORA – Michael Gregorash normally isn't part of Rossville's offensive game plan. But with Carroll suffocating the Hornets' outside shooters, the senior rose to the occasion.
Gregorash broke a tie with a lay-up with nine seconds left, and then had to watch as a last-second free throw by Carroll was missed to give the Hornets a 46-45 win over the Cougars.
Gregorash finished with 11 points, all coming in the second half.
“I was open on the block, Austin (Miller) gave me a nice pass and I was able to hit it,” Gregorash said. “It felt really good, I was excited about it. We had to go down on defense and get the last stop and give us the game.”
Carroll's 2-3 zone caused fits for Rossville in the first half, forcing the Hornets into 7 of 24 shooting with most of those attempts coming from the outside. But Rossville made an adjustment at the half, with point guard James Baker finally able to break down the Cougars’ zone and find Gregorash and Ethan Brenneman on the blocks.
Brenneman led the Hornets with 12 points to complement Gregorash’s output. The duo combined to shoot 8 of 10 from the field (80 percent) in the second half.
Gregorash led the team with seven rebounds.
Carroll put 6-foot-7 senior Eric Miller on Baker, and the smaller, quicker Baker was able to dribble-drive past him and free up the RHS duo.
“It was a little bit of a (halftime) adjustment,” Gregorash said. “We decided to run the four-down (offense) and let James penetrate and try to make the move. We got some lay-ups and it gave us the lead.
“I was just trying to get open. We had good penetration by James and gave me good looks and I was able to convert for lay-ups.”
Rossville took a 44-40 lead with 2:51 left in the game following a traditional 3-point play by Gregorash. Carroll’s Eric Miller made a pair of free throws to cut the lead to two and Brady Wiles hit a bucket to knot things up at 44 with 2:02 left.
Rossville got the ball back with 59 seconds left and held for the last shot. On what turned out the be the game-winning play, Gregorash’s defender jumped off him to double-team Brandon Tonsoni, leaving Gregorash open as he rolled in the post. Austin Miller dished the ball to Gregorash and he scored the bucket with nine seconds left.
“Carroll’s big and physical. Matt (Weaver) had a good game plan to cover our wings. That opened up the middle,” said Rossville head coach Dave Mosson.
But the game was far from over. Carroll got the ball to midcourt and called timeout with five seconds left. On the out-of-bounds play, Miller found Ryan Spesard down low and Baker fouled him with three seconds left.
Spesard stepped to the free throw line and banked in the first attempt. The second shot clanged off the back of the rim and, while there was a scrum on the floor fighting for the ball, time ran out to give the Hornets a win.
Baker had six assists to lead Rossville.
Carroll lost despite making 5 of 7 field goals in the fourth quarter (71 percent) and 13 of 21 attempts in the second half (62 percent).
“We’ve got to find a way to get more stops on the other end,” said Carroll head coach Matt Weaver, a Clinton Prairie graduate. “We’re shooting real high percentages on the season and we’re sitting on a .500 record. With the way we play on both ends, there’s not a lot of room for error.”
Trailing 24-22 halfway through the third quarter, Rossville went a bit unorthodox by using a full-court press despite Mosson’s lack of confidence in it. The move worked as it helped the Hornets go on a 9-0 run to take a 31-24 lead. Rossville never trailed the rest of the way.
“I’m really skeptical about our press,” Mososn said. “I’m never happy with it in practice, but we did enough in it, forcing two or three turnovers.”
Rossville was able to win despite Carroll’s post presence of the 6-7 Eric Miller, 6-5 Spesard and 6-5 Brandon Dillon. Spesard and Dillon were a combined 13 of 14 from the field to take advantage of Rossville’s size disadvantage in the post. Gregorash, Rossville’s center, is 6-1.
Spesard led all scorers with 15 points and Dillon scored 12.
Eric Miller scored nine points on 4 of 13 shooting, but also contributed team highs of seven assists, six rebounds, two steals and one block.
Rossville was able to win despite Carroll’s zone limiting the Hornets’ two leading scorers. Brandon Tonsoni and Austin Miller, to eight points apiece.
“We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board and figure what we’re going to do,” Mosson said. “Delphi played the same way and Tri-County tried to play (Tonsoni) that way. That’s something we’re going to have to get used to.”
Baker scored four points and Brad Myers three points.
Rossville shot 90 percent from the free-throw line (9 of 10) and needed every single one of those. Carroll, meanwhile, did not make a 3-pointer in the game despite coming in averaging 4.0 made triples per game.
Rossville’s Michael Gregorash defends Carroll’s Ryan Spesard during Friday’s game. Gregorash scored the game-winning basket and scored 11 points in the Hornets’ win.
Rossville senior James Baker gets tangled up with a Carroll player in the first half of Friday’s game.