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Delaware Hayes defeats Westerville North with last-second free throws by Jesse Burris

Jesse Burris led the Pacers with 19 points in the win

WESTERVILLE, Ohio – Delaware Hayes senior guard Jesse Burris prides himself on staying calm and making big plays in clutch situations.

Thus, when teammate Jeremiah Russell couldn’t shake loose from his defender off a flare screen to get open on the perimeter in the final seconds of Friday’s game at Westerville North, Burris quickly opted to drive into the paint and pull up for a potential game-winning jump shot near the free throw line.

After Burris was fouled by North junior Micha Young on that play, with Delaware trailing by one point and just 1.1 seconds remaining, the 6-foot-4 Ohio University recruit ignored the roar of the frenzied, sold-out crowd and calmly made both of his foul shots to boost the Pacers to a dramatic 59-58 victory.

With the win, Delaware improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the Ohio Capital Conference-Capital Division, while North dropped to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Capital.

“I’ve been in a lot of big time situations like this before, and I like to have the ball in my hands in pressure situations,” Burris said. “To be honest, I didn’t feel nervous. If you ask my family or anyone who really knows me, even keel is how they would describe me. When I saw Jeremiah was covered, I knew I needed to make a play.

“These were definitely the biggest free throws of my high school career, but it didn’t (rattle) me. I’ve been here before, taking two free throws when we were down by one against Big Walnut when I was a freshman, and I made those shots, so I knew I could do it again. I approached it like it was just another free throw, and after I made the first one, it took all of the pressure away, and I was able to make the second one to win the game.”

Burris also made two free throws with 1:04 remaining to give his squad a 57-56 advantage, and he scored six of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter when his team needed him the most.

“Jesse’s a senior leader and a clutch player, so we completely trust him with the ball in his hands late in the game,” Delaware coach Adam Vincenzo said. “Big players make big plays, and he made a big play to get fouled. I was as confident as I could possibly be with Jesse at the line, and he was clutch once again.”

Burris made a 3-pointer and a layup in the second quarter to help Delaware build a 31-20 halftime advantage, and he went 3-for-3 from the field in the third quarter to help the Pacers take a 46-35 lead into the fourth quarter.

“When we play Delaware, Jesse’s always at the top of the scouting report, and we’ve been aware of what he can do for the past four years,” North coach Shan Trusley said. “We did a lot of things to keep the ball out of his hands early in the game, but he was still a factor.

“On that last play, I thought we had him corralled, but he found a bit of a gap, and got to the foul line for the winning points.”

Carter Piatt-Brown and Russell both scored 14 points, with Piatt-Brown scoring eight points on 4-for-6 shooting in the second quarter alone.

Rounding out Delaware’s scoring were Jake Lowman (7 points), Drew Banaszak (3) and Chase Griggs (2).

The Pacers were playing without the services of 6-7 junior forward Landon Vanderwarker, who has missed Delaware’s past three games due to a sprained wrist and illness. Vanderwarker was Division IV first-team all-state while competing at Northside Christian last season.

“You have to pick your poison because we can put five players on the floor who can hurt you,” Vincenzo said. “And when Landon’s healthy that just gives teams even more matchup problems.”

The Warriors struggled against Delaware’s matchup 2-3 zone defense in the first half, as they made only eight of 26 field goals over the first two quarters, before mounting a furious comeback in the fourth quarter.

Young scored 19 of his game-high 21 points over the first three quarters to keep North within striking distance.

The junior guard scored eight points in the first quarter alone, while helping the Warriors jump out to a 10-3 advantage less than three minutes into the contest.

Young also took the final shot of the game as time expired, but his heave from nearly three-fourths of the length of the court fell well short of its mark.

Delaware led by as much as 40-25 in the third quarter, but the Warriors’ relentless man-to-man full-court pressure seemed to wear on the Pacers in the fourth quarter, when North forced seven turnovers while outscoring Delaware 23-13 over the final eight minutes of the game.

“We knew they were going to put pressure on us, because that’s what they do, so we just tried to survive,” Vincenzo said. “We preached taking care of the ball and taking good shots, but Westerville North’s really good with their press and it was tough.”

Tai Perkins scored six of his 12 points on back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, which pulled North within 50-43 with 6:05 remaining.

After going 0-for-5 on his first five field goal attempts, freshman guard Tyson Perkins came off the bench to make his final four shots.

Perkins scored all nine of his points in the fourth quarter, including a driving layup with 24 seconds remaining, which put the Warriors ahead 58-57, and set up Burris’ last-second heroics.

“Tyson gave us a big spark, and he did that (in a 69-64 win) against Westerville Central (on Dec. 9), too,” Trusley said.

The Warriors also rallied to take their first lead since the first quarter, when Eyon Robinson made a layup, and then stole the ensuing inbound pass and dished the ball to Vari Adams, who made a layup that put North ahead 56-55 with 1:31 remaining in the game.

Rounding out the Warriors’ scoring were Robinson (9), Ronald Jackson (3), Adams (2) and Tony Cornett (2).

“Micah Young and Eyon Robinson played really well for us,” Trusley said. “But we get a great effort from eight or nine guys every night, and all of our guys played relentless defense to help us rally and come within just a few seconds of winning this game.”