MANSFIELD -- Jacob Gessner didn't shy away from a 3-point attempt with 28 seconds left and his team down by two. That's because the 5-foot-8 Loudonville sophomore has literally hit the shot thousands of times in practice.
Gessner calmly knocked in the jumper from the top of the key as the Redbirds survived a second-half rally from Mansfield Christian to claim a 48-47 win in a Mid-Buckeye Conference game at The Furnace.
"You hear the term gym rat. Jake is the definition of a gym rat," veteran Loudonville coach Kelly Seboe said. "That's by no accident. The kid has hit that shot and those 3's thousands and thousands of times over the past summer. It's no surprise to us."
The win evened Loudonville's record at 3-3 overall, 2-1 in the MBC. Mansfield Christian, which rallied from a 15-point halftime deficit, slipped to 0-6, 0-3.
BLISTERING START: After Gessner's first-quarter performance, it would have been hard to imagine a clutch shot would be needed at the end.
Gessner, who came off the bench and started a few games as a freshman, rained in six triples in the first eight minutes as Loudonville took a 26-12 lead into the second quarter. He finished with 23 points. The Redbirds took a 35-20 lead into halftime.
"I always look for my shot," Gessner said. "At that point in the game, they just weren't ready and they were leaving me open too many times. I took advantage.
"I just have a love of the game. I have that 30,000-shot club thing. You get on the gun, it rebounds the ball for you and shoots it back out to you. It's just getting in the gym, shooting on that, over and over, day after day," Gessner said.
But Mansfield Christian, under first-year coach Adam Parrott, stormed back in the second half.
The Flames went on a 12-2 run to start the third quarter, cutting Loudonville's lead to 38-32 with 3:27 left in the period. MCS trailed 42-37 going into the fourth.
Mansfield Christian continued the rally in the fourth, tying the game at 45 with 2:33 left and taking a 47-45 lead at the 1:26 mark on a basket by senior Noah Cyphers, who scored all seven of his points in the second half.
"We are getting better every day," Parrott said. "I just told the boys in the lockerroom, it's one game at a time, one step at a time. To come back from an 18-point deficit with a young team, with only one kid that's ever played varsity basketball, I can live with that.
"I am proud of my guys, proud of the way they fought back. I am just looking forward to what the future holds for us."
FINAL SECONDS: His team trailing for the first time in the game, Seboe called timeout with 42 seconds left and set the play for Gessner, whose triple was the only Loudonville bucket of the final period.
"We kind of messed up on the bench in the first half. Our senior (Garrett Fry) picked up his third foul before we could put a kid in," Seboe said. "At that point, we were in foul trouble and we had some young kids out there. We had three kids with no (varsity) experience out there a lot of the second quarter and a lot of the third. Those kids got a ton of experience in a positive manner.
"We wanted to go after them again (in the second half) and wanted to trap them. But I was afraid we wouldn't have anyone left."
The Flames had a chance to win at the end, but a corner jumper by senior Parker Stigall glanced off the rim.
"I told Parker in the lockerroom that I'd want him to shoot that same shot again ... and I want him to," Parrott said.
Despite the loss, Parrott was encouraged by what he saw.
"I can feel the guys are starting to buy in," he said. "They are starting to believe in one another. The team chemistry was the issue at the beginning of the season. We are starting to gel and define individual roles."
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: Senior Ethan Berry led Mansfield Christian with 12 points, 10 of which came in the first half. Junior Gavin Kiliany added 10. Cyphers and Stigall each had seven, all of which came in the second half.
In addition to Gessner, Loudonville got 10 points from Fry. The Redbirds connected on 11 triples, nine in the first half.
UP NEXT: Mansfield Christian is back on the court Saturday at Ontario at 2 p.m., taking on Clear Fork in the 419 Challenge.
"We're excited to get to play again tomorrow, see how these guys can bounce back. I told the guys to get some rest because Clear Fork is a very good team," Parrott said.
Loudonville hosts rival Hillsdale Saturday night.