By Adam Baum, firstname.lastname@example.org
Five years and one day.
Or 1,827 days.
That's how long it had been since St. Xavier's last Greater Catholic League South basketball win before the Bombers beat Elder on North Bend Road Friday night, 55-53, thanks to a coast-to-coast game-winning shot at the buzzer in overtime from senior Andrew Wittrock.
That last league win for St. Xavier came on Jan. 18, 2013, so naturally, St. Xavier's student sections – which bookend the floor inside Berning Gymnasium – stormed the court and mobbed Wittrock, who finished with a career-high 18 points and 10 rebounds.
"I was supposed to pass it to (Nathan) Stockman but he wasn't open so I just took it and no one really stopped me so I just went up," said Wittrock, who was also a standout wide receiver on the football team the last two seasons.
St. Xavier head coach Jimmy Lallathin told Cincinnati.com that on the final sequence he was thinking: "'Don't screw it up like I did at the end of regulation. Don't call a timeout and screw it up when we've got a straight line drive.' I tell the guys a lot, this is a player's game; player's make plays.
"He's a winner," Lallathin said of Wittrock. "It's funny, our chaplain said today, 'When you have the guy that caught the state championship touchdown, you know he's got ice water through his veins,' and he does. He showed it again today. He wasn't ingrained in our plans early (this season) but he's continued to work and he's earned everything he's gotten. It's a testament to who he is, who his family is, and that's what this high school is all about."
Elder senior Zach Harp, the Panthers' leading scorer, was held in check all night by Wittrock, or at least for the game's first 29 minutes. Harp hit a contested 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left in overtime to tie the game, 53-53 until Wittrock went the distance and sent the Bombers into a frenzy.
"It was awesome," said Wittrock, "just cause of how close the game was and how it went into overtime. When it's all said and done, it's just an awesome feeling getting the win."
Elder trailed 42-37 with 3:24 left in the fourth quarter and proceeded to end regulation on a 7-2 run. Elder only led once in the game and it was in overtime.
St. X got off to a much better start, limiting Elder to just four made field goals in the first half, but the Panthers battled back in the second-half thanks to 20 forced turnovers and seven 3-pointers.
In the fourth quarter and overtime, Elder's Brett Marsh and Harp combined for 23 points, while Aidan Byrne, who finished with 13 points, carried the Panthers offensively in the first three frames.
Chase Wolf balanced the scoring for the Bombers with 12 points, but the difference down the stretch was St. Xavier's offensive rebounding. After three quarters of play, the Bombers were credited with one offensive board but managed to come up with six in the fourth quarter and overtime.
"They earned it," Lallathin said. "They worked for it. They did it. I'm just so happy for them. They get an opportunity to celebrate something that hasn't been celebrated for a while. They put the work in. They put the dedication in. They continued to believe. I just can't be any more proud for a group of guys."
Entering Friday's game, St. Xavier had lost 25 straight conference games.
Elder (6-8, 0-2) - Nieman 1 0 2, Estep 1 0 2, Harp 3 3 12, O'Brien 3 2 8, Marsh 6 1 16, Byrne 4 1 13, Broxterman 1 0 2. Totals: 19 7 53.
St. Xavier (10-4, 1-1) - Gilbert 4 1 9, Jefferson 1 3 5, Stockman 1 3 5, Wittrock 8 2 18, Wolf 4 2 12, Frank 2 0 4, Pellot 1 0 2. Totals: 20 11 53.
Halftime: St. X 21-15. 3-pointers: E 10 (Harp 3, Marsh 3, Byrne 4); X 2 (Wolf 2).