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River Hangs On For 9OT Victory

Longest boys’ hoops tourney game in the history of OHSAA

Photo Provided River and Morgan played the longest boys’ basketball tournament game in OHSAA history in 1974, a game that went into nine overtimes.

The longest boys’ basketball tournament game in Ohio High School Athletic Association history was played between River and Morgan in 1974.

Brian Ensinger only had 10 points in the elongated contest, but it was his final two that propelled the Pilots to a gut-check, 74-72, victory in a Class AA sectional at Marietta College’s jam-packed Ban Johnson Fieldhouse.

The 5-8 senior’s 16-foot jumper from the left wing tickled the twine as the buzzer sounded in the ninth overtime. Yes, nine OTs!

“I couldn’t be any prouder of the way this team played and it was the most thrilling tournament victory I’ve ever had,” the late Dick Potts, then River head coach, said in a published report.

“This team came through in critical situations and they did exactly what we told them,” Potts added. “They didn’t panic against a good team. Morgan is much better than its record.”

The tightly played contest was deadlocked at 63 after four quarters of regulation play. It was knotted an amazing 22 times before the overtimes began.

River led 20-18 after one quarter and 44-38 at the half before Morgan started its comeback. The Pilots margin was whittled to 52-51 at the end of three quarters.

Morgan’s Steve Inman has a chance to give the Raiders the win but his driving shot as time wound down in the fourth quarter was blocked by River’s Ed Pfalzgraf with four seconds left and the clock expired.

After a scoreless first OT, Pfalzgraf and Inman had baskets in the second extra session for a 65-all reading. Each team recorded a basket in the second overtime but neither would score in the third nor fourth overtimes before each cashed in a free throw in the sixth OT. River’s came from Pfalzgraf while Inman had Morgan’s.

The seventh and eighth overtimes saw neither team able to dent the scoreboard.

The Pilots controlled the tip in the ninth three-minute period and veteran forward Bob Shaffer was fouled while driving to the basket. He sank one of the two charity tosses for a 69-68 lead, but the Raiders went on top 70-69 when Inman drained a 20-footer.

A conventional three-point play by veteran senior guard Joe Sweetnich put River back ahead, 72-70, with 2:35 left on the clock. Morgan tied it 30 seconds later when Mike Oliver knocked down a 12-footer.

The Pilots then deliberately, but patiently, held the ball for the final shot and it paid off when Ensinger’s shot went through the hoop to end a nearly two-and-a-half hour marathon.

It was the eighth time that River was able to take the final shot of an overtime session. The Pilots also won six of the nine OT tips.

“It was a weird ending,” Lou “Scooter” Tolzda, a sophomore reserve at River, recalled. “The ball never changed hands until Brian’s shot.”

River, which improved to a sparkling 15-4, advanced to play Maysville, 8-11, in the lower bracket title tilt. The winner earned a berth in the Steubenville district tournament at St. JohnArena.

Long-time River assistant coach Gard Curtis was an aide to Potts that season.

“I remember there being a lot of blocked shots in the game,” he said. “Eddie (Pfalzgraf) was a really good shot blocker.”

River was led by junior sharpshooter Mitch Miracle with 26 points on 12 of 20 shooting from the floor, including 10-for-12 from the outside in the first half. However, the Raiders employed a box-and-one in the second half that cooled off the red-hot Miracle.

Shaffer added 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Pfalzgraf added seven points, a like number of rebounds and blocked four shots. He also recorded a key steal in one of the overtimes. Sweetnich finished with five points while Mike Lollathin had six and John Miller two.

Inman equaled Miracle’s 26 points to pace Morgan.

The Pilots shot 52 percent (32-52) and led 35-29 off the glass. They also had seven more turnovers, 22-15.

Coincidentally, there has only be one other 9-overtime game in OHSAA history. That coming on Jan. 5, 1963 when St. Clairsville and Martins Ferry.

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