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West Geauga vs. Chardon boys basketball: Wolverines rally to topple Hilltoppers

Jan. 16—When West Geauga made its way to the locker room Jan. 16 at rival Chardon, staring at a 15-point deficit on the scoreboard, each member of the Wolverines believed the second half would tell a different story.

That belief, along with a stronger defensive effort, some clutch plays, and a bevy of free throws, made the difference as West Geauga rallied for a 68-66 victory.

The Wolverines improved to 9-4 on the season, having won three of their last four, while the Hilltoppers fell to 3-7 with their fifth consecutive loss.

@WestGAthletics junior guard Colin Whiting (13 points, 2 assists, 1 block, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and two huge free throws at the end) breaks down the Wolverines' 68-66 comeback victory at Chardon pic.twitter.com/g7P8CR62wn

— Jay Kron (@TownCenter2) January 17, 2024

"We came here expecting (to win), but in the first half we didn't play anywhere near as well as we should have," Wolverines junior guard Colin Whiting said. "In the second half, we just fought hard. Five people played defense, and that's what it took to win."

A 15-2 run by Chardon to end the first half left West Geauga down, 38-23. The Hilltoppers owned the boards in the first two frames, 17-8, and had drilled seven 3-pointers.

Chardon's 6-foot-4 senior Sammy Sulka sank three of those, on his way to 14 first-half points. Sulka was a load to deal with for the Wolverines, both in the paint and outside the arc.

West Geauga's 6-foot-2 junior Landon Lear took on the task of guarding Sulka and preventing him from doing any more damage after halftime.

Lear and the Wolverines held Sulka to just two points after halftime, and when the Chardon standout picked up his third foul and went to the bench with three minutes left in the third quarter, West Geauga took advantage.

A 46-32 Chardon lead evaporated during a 22-5 West G run that spanned the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters, even when Sulka returned to the floor with a minute left in the third frame.

Lear, who poured in a game-high 31 points, scored every which way possible — drives to the bucket, mid-range jumpers, 3-pointers, and especially, at the foul line, where he converted 10 of 14 free throws.

@WestGAthletics junior guard Landon Lear (game-high 31 points, three 3s, 10 of 14 from the line) discusses the Wolverines' 68-66 comeback win over Chardon pic.twitter.com/lQUpBLL4zM

— Jay Kron (@TownCenter2) January 17, 2024

"We had to keep fighting," Lear said regarding the team's second-half mindset. "We knew we were playing bad. Our defense was awful in the first half, but then we locked them up (in the second half) and played very well."

West Geauga grabbed its first lead since the beginning of the game when Lear found senior Carson Weisman cutting to the basket for a layup that gave the Wolverines a 52-51 lead, then Weisman stole the ensuing inbounds pass and scored to make it 54-51.

Chardon battled back behind freshman Luke Galfidi, who scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a triple to tie the game, 59-59, and a free throw that gave Chardon a 60-59 lead with 1:47 to play.

Sulka sank two from the line, his only two points in the second half after his dominant first half, to push the lead out to 62-59 with 1:15 left.

Lear hit a layup with 1:02 to play, and then stole a pass, leading to bucket by sophomore Dominic Paros that gave the Wolverines a 63-62 lead with 42 seconds left.

A pair of Whiting free throws preceded a Galfidi bucket with 16 seconds to play. Lear split a pair at the line to make it 66-64, then Whiting came down with a rebound, was fouled, and coolly sank both free throws for a 68-64 lead with five seconds left. Carson Frost scored on the last play for Chardon for the final margin.

West Geauga shot 40% from the field (21 of 52) and was successful on 20 of 28 free throw attempts. The Wolverines limited Chardon to nine field goals (on 27 attempts) in the second half, kept turnovers to a minimum, and held their own on the boards after struggling in the first half.

Whiting added 13 points and Weisman had nine for the Wolverines.

@WestGAthletics Coach Micah Young gives his thoughts on the Wolverines' comeback win over Chardon and achieving a 9-4 mark so far (Part 2) pic.twitter.com/U9ypht3cn5

— Jay Kron (@TownCenter2) January 17, 2024

"It's big-time," West Geauga coach Micah Young said of the comeback win. "Chardon is a rival for us. Coming off a loss Friday night to another rival, Chagrin Falls, I wanted our guys to soak in that atmosphere because I didn't want us to feel that again.

"It means everything to our guys to come here and beat Chardon. They've had success (against us) in every sport, basically, so it's a big-time win for us."

@WestGAthletics Coach Micah Young goes over the Wolverines' 68-66 come-from-behind win over Chardon (Part 1) pic.twitter.com/OuNzA6sMmt

— Jay Kron (@TownCenter2) January 17, 2024

Sulka paced four Hilltoppers in double figures with 16 points. Galfidi added 14, Frost chipped in with 14, and senior Ryan Grau finished with 9, including a trio of 3s.

Chardon shot 44% from the field (24 of 55) and held a 34-23 rebounding edge, but was only 8 of 12 from the line, and that free-throw deficit proved critical in a game that could have gone either way.

@toppernation Coach Chad Murawski reviews the Hilltoppers' 68-66 loss to West Geauga pic.twitter.com/4txPSXvVhH

— Jay Kron (@TownCenter2) January 17, 2024

"They're and experienced team, they're well-coached, and they're used to winning these close game," Chardon coach Chad Murawski said of the Wolverines. "We have not been in (many) close games, and our inexperience showed.

"It sounds cliche, but I'm proud of their effort. They competed for four quarters. If we played that team 10 times, it would probably be that type of game 10 times, but I couldn't be more proud of our players and coaches. It was a fun atmosphere on a cold Tuesday night."

Chardon will host WRC foe Mayfield on Jan. 19, when West Geauga will travel to CVC Chagrin opponent Orange.

THE SCORE

West Geauga 68, Chardon 66