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Ballezzi's 3-Pointer in OT Puts Ocean City Into Sectional Semifinals

Matt Bosch scores 26 points as the Red Raiders stun Central in the state high school basketball tournament.

The last play, with the game on the line in overtime, was designed with Matt Bosch as the first option.

Central Regional High School figured as much, since the Ocean City junior had just poured in 26 points, including the game-tying basket that forced overtime.

The Golden Eagles put two defenders on Bosch, but left Tom Ballezzi wide open at the top of the key.

Big mistake.

Down by one, the Ocean City guard, arguably the team's best perimeter  and clutch shooter, did what he does best. Ballezzi connected from long range with three seconds left in overtime to put the Red Raiders ahead by two in the NJSIAA Group III South quarterfinal game.

The Golden Eagles, the No. 5 seed, had one last shot, but Justin Woznak's 30-footer was off the mark, giving the No. 4 seeded Red Raiders a thrilling 59-57 win to advance to the sectional semifinals, as Raider Nation swarmed the court.

"It's unbelievable," said Ballezzi, who scored 13 points. "It's a great feeling."

"We were down, but the thing about this team is that we don't lose our composure," Bosch said. "We know we aren't out of it and we are always going to fight back."

Ocean City will travel to top-seed Kingsway on Saturday. The Dragons thumped No. 9 Highland, 48-23, on Thursday night.

Wozniak hit a 3-pointer to open the scoring in overtime. Bosch answered with a tough bucket in the paint, and then put the Red Raiders ahead with two free throws with 1:10 remaining.

Casey Allender put Central back on top with a layup with 23 seconds left. The Red Raiders worked the ball around, but called a timeout with seven seconds left in the game to come up with a play.

Ocean City coach John Bruno said the play came from a televised college game he watched on Monday night. He liked the play so much he watched it a few times on DVR and drew it up on a napkin just in case his team found itself in a tight situation.

The play worked perfectly. Bosch came off two screens, but was cut off by two defenders, one of which left Ballezzi open for the 3-pointer.

"I felt two guys on me, but it made Tommy wide open for a three," Bosch said.

"I popped out to the three-point line, and Dylan (Canova) was able to give me a good pass and I knocked down the shot."

Overtime almost never happened. Central was ahead by five with 1:28 left, but the Red Raiders chipped away at the foul line. Ocean City, which missed 12 foul shots in the game, made four of six in the final 1:16 of regulation.

Central still led by four with 37 seconds left, but Ballezzi  answered with a scoop layup with 24 seconds left on the clock to make it a 52-50 score.

After Central missed a pair of free throws, Bosch scored on a putback from his own missed shot to tie the score at 52.

"It was an awesome feeling," Bosch said. "Just awesome."

Stilts March 04, 2011 at 04:40 AM
Awesome game!!!

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