ST. CLAIRSVILLE - It seemed as if neither Buckeye Local nor Edison had any plans of seizing victory during their Division II sectional opener at Ohio University Eastern.
After three extra sessions, the Panthers finally took advantage of an opportunity and pulled out a 61-56 victory before a sparse and very quiet crowd inside the Health and Physical Education Center.
''The last time we played (Edison) we won in the last 3 seconds, so we knew this was going to be another tough game,'' a relieved Buckeye Local coach Jay Morris said. ''We're certainly excited to take the next step.''
Buckeye Local will return to OUE on Saturday evening to tangle with East Liverpool in a lower bracket sectional final at 6 p.m.
''We got a chance to see East Liverpool (last Saturday) and they're very good,'' Morris said. ''They're very quick, and Coach (Nate) Conely runs some excellent sets, but it's a brand new season and we're going to go out and play.''
Before any attention could be shifted to the Potters, the Panthers had their hands full throughout. The game was tied at 21-21 at halftime, but Buckeye Local owned a 36-31 lead after three, which set the table for the next 20 minutes of action.
The Panthers owned a lead as big as nine in the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats scored 10 of the game's final 11, including an Alec Jones bucket with 44 seconds left that knotted the game at 41.
''We had opportunities in regulation and each of the first two overtimes to get the win,'' Edison coach Todd English said. ''We just couldn't get shots to fall and we had great looks. Give Buckeye credit because they hit free throws when they needed to and took care of the ball a little bit better than we did when they needed to.''
In the second overtime, Buckeye Local was nursing a 49-47 lead as Edison worked the ball into the front court. Talented junior Mark Smyth found a seam in the Panthers defense, cut to the bucket and dropped in an uncontested layup with a little more than 5 seconds to go.
"When we got to overtime, I thought we were in good shape, but we just couldn't get shots to fall,''
Buckeye Local's desperation heave from three-quarters court clanged off the front of the rim, requiring a third overtime.
The Wildcats led 52-50 after a pair of free throws by Jones in the third overtime, but junior Caleb Agnew scored on penetration and sophomore Brennan Czuchran cashed two in from the line to put the Panthers back on top.
Jones tied the game with a basket inside on the other end, but Agnew, who came up big on both ends in the overtimes, beat his man off the bounce for a bucket to put the Panthers on top for good at 56-54.
As the Wildcats continued to clang multiple shots off the rim, the Panthers finally collared a rebound and began a steady stream to the foul line. Buckeye Local converted 8 of 12 from the line in the third overtime.
Included was a critical intentional foul call on the Wildcats after Buckeye Local had garnered an offensive rebound. Morris sent senior Justin Isinghood to the line, who calmly sank both for a 59-56 lead to all but begin to ice the game away since the Panthers retained possession.
''At the end, we were running an offense that we ran when I was at Wheeling Jesuit, and we got three good looks out of it,'' Morris said. ''We hadn't ran it that well all season ... even in practice. I thought Caleb played two of his best games of the season against Edison and that includes (Tuesday).''
Czuchran led the Panthers with 17 points and 12 boards. Junior Johnny Rozenek had 10 points and a like number of rebounds. Agnew and Isinghood each had nine.
Edison was paced by Jones' 19 and Smyth's 17. Senior Phil Hilt scored 12 of his 13 in the first half. Smyth also had a game-high 14 rebounds.