Luke Freiling had practiced the shot thousands of times before.
But that was in his driveway. This was the first time it really counted.
Freiling, a special-needs student at Burton Berkshire who has served as the team's manager the past four years, dressed for the senior night game against Newbury on Friday. For the first time, he was actually in uniform and a playing member of the team.
With a little more than 2 minutes remaining, the 5-foot-8 senior took a pass from Ryan Acker and made a 3-pointer from the right wing.
"This meant a lot to me," Freiling said after being mobbed by teammates and fans after the game. "I didn't think I was going to make that. But when Ryan gave it to me, I knew I was going to make it."
Freiling entered the game late in the first half, but was unable to get off a shot against the Black Knights. But with the Badgers up by 22 points late in the game, coach Keith Clapacs summoned the (former) manager from the bench, bringing a chorus of "Luuuukke" from the crowd.
Freiling missed a pair of 3-pointers from the top of the key. But off an inbounds play from the corner, he converted.
Bedlam ensued, with Freiling sprinting out to midcourt and jumping into the arms of teammate Josh Garrett. After a timeout was called, cheerleaders — including sister Kaitlyn Freiling — stormed the court and the crowd chanted the youngster's name as tears welled up in the eyes of fans, family members and teammates.
"It melted my heart, it really did," Garrett said. "He's at every practice just like we are; he puts in time just like any other kid. It literally made his day. His year. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing for him, and he lived it up."
The 57-38 final score was secondary, of course.
"Only four teams raise a banner at the end of the year," said Clapacs, who presented the game ball to Freiling. "I'm pretty sure we left with a trophy tonight."
RECORD-SETTERS: Franklin junior guard Luke Kennard broke his own school scoring record with 59 points in a 72-64 win over Monroe — scoring all 23 Wildcats points in the first quarter and tying a school record with nine 3-pointers; Lauren Speice set a Wayne Trace rebounding record for the third time this season with 23 in a game; and Chillicothe Unioto's Nick Corcoran hit nine 3-pointers to tie a school record en route to 31 points in a 72-46 win over Jackson.
NOTE THIS: Bloomdale Elmwood's Aaron Arnold collected a triple double (17 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in a 75-68 win over Genoa; Blake Atkins and Parker Evans combined for 39 points with 16 of 17 free throws as New Concord John Glenn won its fourth Muskingum Valley League title in five years with a 63-44 win against Thornville Sheridan; Zanesville wrapped up its first 20-win regular season since 1995-96 under 23rd-year coach Scott Aronhalt; three teams nicknamed Bulldogs (Defiance, Celina and Elida) are 7-1 and still have a chance to win at least a share of the Western Buckeye League title; Chris Flowers scored 28 points and added eight steals and five rebounds to lead Lucasville Valley to an 81-76 double-overtime win over Minford to clinch at least a share of its league title; Jaden O'Neal scored 30 points and was 21 of 27 from the free-throw line, more than doubling the number of free throws Fort Recovery attempted and made in Lima Shawnee's 75-64 win over Fort Recovery; and in Edgerton's girls' 61-57 win over Wayne Trace, the Bulldogs' Devin Stark scored all 10 of her team's 10 points in the second overtime and finished with 26 points, seven steals and three assists.
SAVING UP: Paulding's boys, down 41-40 through three periods, scored 32 points in the final quarter to rally past Bryan, 72-61.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Oak Hill's girls won a league title when Merrill Melvin hit a shot at the buzzer on Feb. 10 to beat South Webster, 39-37.
Two days earlier, her twin sister Macy hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer in a 42-40 win over Ironton.
It didn't end up being a great week for the Lady Oaks, however. No. 2 in the final AP Division III poll, they were upset 54-47 in overtime by Chesapeake in the sectional championship game on Saturday. The loss snapped a streak of 17 straight sectional championships for the Lady Oaks.
WELL, WELL, WELLSTON: The Wellston Lady Golden Rockets captured their first sectional championship since the program's birth in 1978 with a 70-50 Division III title victory over Belpre on Saturday.
THE LAST WORD: The only basket Taylor Stanfield scored this season did not win a game for Findlay's girls. But it did underscore the role of sportsmanship in prep sports.
A 6-foot senior center who averaged 10.6 points and 7.7 rebounds as a junior, Stanfield tore a ligament in her knee in the preseason and had missed every game — until the very end.
On senior night against archrival Fremont Ross, the coaches came to a mutual agreement: Findlay let Fremont control the opening tip and score. Fremont them allowed Findlay to inbound the ball to Stanfield, who took it the length of the court for a basket.
Stanfield, still recovering from the injury, then hobbled back to the bench.
Fremont Ross went to win the game 43-33. The outcome meant little in the league standings — but a lot to one player and her team.
Rusty Miller can be reached at http://twitter.com/RustyMillerAP
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