WHEELING - Tuesday night's boys' basketball game between Bishop Donahue and Huntington St. Joseph was everything you could ask for in a tournament championship game and more.
If it was only the semifinals of the Undo's Ohio Valley Catholic Basketball Tournament.
After being dominated on the boards for most of the game, the Irish turned the tables late in the fourth quarter and overtime with three big second-chance baskets, including the eventual game-winner from junior Paul Dransfeld.
Bishop Donahue’s Garrett Yurisko (20) gets a steep on St. Joe’s Josh Pierson (0) during action of the Undo’s Tourney at Wheeling Jesuit.
Senior sensation Josh Pierson exploded for 29 points and Dransfeld provided the heroic putback late as St. Joe's let a nine-point second half lead slip away before battling for a thrilling 86-83 overtime victory against the Bishops at WJU.
Coach Ross Scaggs' crew will return at 9 tonight for the championship game against Wheeling Central, which posted a 63-18 victory against St. John.
The loss was the first in six tries for Coach Tom Wise's Donahue squad, and also the second consecutive victory for the Irish against an unbeaten team. They defeated Teays Valley Christian 85-56 last Thursday.
While Pierson didn't have a point in the extra session, he dominated for most of the initial four periods and had two shots at the hoop in the final 30 seconds before Dransfeld closed the deal with the third shot of the trip to give the Irish a 84-83 lead.
Michael Mayes, who finished with 15 points, nailed a pair of free throws with three seconds showing for an 86-83 margin. The Bishops were able to work the ball down court with Garrett Yurisko hitting Chad Riedel in the corner for a good look at a 3, which bounced off the rim as the horn sounded.
"I really thought they might foul us at the end," Wise said.
"But they didn't, and we got a nice try at a 3 that just didn't fall. I am disappointed with the loss, but we played very hard and we kept our composure when we were down.
"Number 0 (Pierson) was almost unstoppable. We did a better job on him in the second half, but it just seemed like he did whatever he wanted, even with someone in front of him. He is just a super player.
"We knew they were an excellent free throw shooting team and we let them get to the line too much (17-22), but they also got some very big rebounds late.
"I thought we did a very good job overall, but it just wasn't quite good enough."
St. Joe's led 17-15 after one and 38-33 at the break before taking the biggest advantage of the night, 44-25 with 6:10 to go in the third. However, the Bishops went on an 8-0 blast and eventually cut the deficit to 53-52 after the third quarter.
Donahue's first lead since the Irish took control with a 10-0 second-quarter roll, came at 60-58 on a D.T. Meeker hoop with 5:12 to go in regulation. The Bishops led by as many as three and trailed by two on numerous occasions late. Meeker gave Donahue a 74-73 lead with a drive at 27 seconds but Pierson hit the back end of a two-shot foul with 13 seconds to go to force overtime.
"That was one of those games you would rather watch than coach," Scaggs said. "I am very proud of my kids, but you have to take your hats off to Donahue, they came to play.
"We were missing a kid, which shortened our rotations, but Josh Pierson is a very good athlete and basketball player and we used him (Tuesday). It was a very fun game and you could use a lot of cliches to describe it.
"I think we also had some kids step up on the boards late. They were shading Josh high on the pick-and-roll and that will usually lead to some offensive rebounds, but you have to guard him out there."
Bishops senior Austin Ghaphery had a team-high 22 points, while Meeker added 18 and Yurisko 10. Senior Wiley Koontz was a force inside with 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Sophomore Payne Meadows used his sweet shot to score 19 for the Irish and Anthony Rabel chipped in with 13.
Donahue finished with a 44-35 edge off the glass, even though they were outrebounded 13-4 in the final 3 minutes of regulation and overtime. The Bishops turned the ball over 16 times, which was five more than St. Joe's.