LUCAS — He may not boast the big-game experience of his football-playing teammates, but the bright lights and grand stage don’t seem to bother Lucas’ Riley Gossom.
The Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, Gossom scored 21 points in Saturday’s 53-50 win at Ontario. It was the Cubs’ first win over the Warriors since Dec. 20, 2007 when both schools were members of the now-defunct North Central Conference.
A 6-foot-3 junior, Gossom is the only starter who wasn’t a member of the wildly successful football team. He’s joined in the lineup by Logan Niswander, Carson Hauger, Ethan Sauder and Ethan Wallace, all major contributors in the fall as the Cubs advanced to the Division VII state championship game.
“We are pretty cool under pressure and it showed tonight,” said Gossom, who scored nine of Lucas’ 10 points in the fourth quarter. “A game like this is really good for us, especially come tournament times when we are playing tough teams and have to be able to execute down the stretch.”
The Cubs trailed 44-43 going to the fourth quarter, but a pair of Gossom layups in the opening 1:06 of the final period gave Lucas a 47-44 advantage with 6:54 to play. Ontario responded with a 4-0 run of its own to grab a 48-47 advantage with 3:33 remaining, but Gossom again answered the bell with back-to-back layups for a 51-48 Lucas lead.
“Riley hit some huge buckets for us there in the fourth quarter,” Lucas coach Taylor Iceman said. “The last one stretched it out to a three-point advantage, which was huge because it seemed like (Ontario’s Griffin) Shaver hit a buzzer-beater at the end of every quarter.”
Niswander split a pair of free throws with 51 seconds to play for a 52-48 lead, but Ontario cut it to 52-50 on a Jon Nagel offensive rebound and stickback with 20 seconds to go. Gossom hit the front end of a one-and-one with 9.8 seconds to go for a 53-50 lead. He missed the second, but the Cubs forced Shaver into a fall-away 3-point attempt as time expired.
“There were some nerves, but I felt confident going to the free throw line. Those are the moments you live for,” Gossom said. “Then we were able to get back and play tough defense on a phenomenal player (Shaver) who had already made a couple of tough shots at the end of quarters.”
For the season, Gossom is averaging 19.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 steals a game. He scored 21 in Friday’s 51-36 win at Crestline as the Cubs improved to 6-0 in the Mid-Buckeye Conference. The Cubs won the MBC title last year and have a one-game lead over Kidron Central Christian in the MBC standings with four games to go.
State-ranked Lucas (12-0) returns to MBC action Friday, hosting St. Peter’s, before welcoming Plymouth to the Cub Cave on Saturday. The Cubs moved up to No. 4 in Division IV in the most recent Associated Press state poll, released earlier this week.
“Beating a great team like Ontario gives us a lot of confidence,” Gossom said. “We feel really good about ourselves right now, but we’ve got to come back next week and keep working because we have a couple of big games coming up.”