Iron Unkind To Libbey, Buford In State Final

Five seconds from a Division II state championship, William Buford and his Toledo Libbey teammates saw victory snatched from them by Chillicothe Saturday afternoon at Value City Arena. The Cavaliers triumphed 70-69 in overtime.

William Buford's high school career ended in dramatic – but not triumphant – fashion.

His bid to lead the Toledo Libbey Cowboys to a Division II state championship lived until just after the final buzzer sounded in overtime at Value City Arena.

That's when a layup by Chillicothe's Ray Chambers fell through the net to earn the winning points in a 70-69 overtime thriller.

Chillicothe, making its first state tournament appearance since 1930, won its first state title.

"It was crazy. I just kind of threw it up there," Chambers said, adding that as the ball took an extra bounce off the rim, "I thought I missed it."

The bucket gave Chambers 23 points, 18 of which came after halftime. His emergence was a key factor in the Cavaliers' erasing a 16-point second half deficit.

They nearly won the game in regulation, but Libbey's Lance Jones made a 15-foot jump shot to tie the game in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

With 5.1 seconds to go in overtime, the Chillicothe rally looked as if it would be just a footnote in a championship season for Libbey.

His team trailing 68-67 and time ticking below 10 seconds, Buford drove into the lane and with defense collapsing on him fed the ball to Julius Wells on the baseline. Wells missed a layup but was fouled by Chambers and went to the line for two free throws with 5.1 to play.

He swished both to put the Cowboys ahead, prompting Chillicothe head coach Gary Kellough to call his final timeout.

What he drew up was an inbounds pass to Anthony Hitchens, and his stellar senior point guard did most of the rest.

The 5-10 waterbug received a pass in front of his own bench and dribbled the length of the floor, dodging several Cowboys along the way, until he had reached the lane at the other end. There he had Buford isolated in a two-on-one break and dropped a bounce pass off to Chambers, who did the rest.

"I was shocked he passed it to me," Chambers said with a laugh. "I thought he would pull up and save the day."

Hitchens, who led the Cavaliers with 24 points, eight assists and four steals, had no trouble being honest in the postgame interview room, either.

"I didn't think he got it off in time," Hitchens said.

Hitchens, who is bound for Akron, had 17 of his points after halftime, and there was no doubt he would get the ball to try to make magic in the final seconds.

"Five seconds is a long time and he is awfully fast," Kellough said. "He's lightning off the dribble."

All that wiped out what could have been a coronation for Buford, who scored 29 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists. He was 13 for 25 from the field, including 2 for 5 from three-point range, and was gracious in defeat.

Afterward, Buford could be seen comforting a sobbing teammate in a Schottenstein Center hallway.

"When you are a leader, you've just go to keep your teammates under control so they won't do anything that they don't have any business doing when they're mad," he said. "So I just try to keep them under control."

Wells finished with 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, and Buford had no worries giving him the ball in crunch time.

"I knew he had it under control and he would make both free throws," Buford said. "We just weren't able to get back on defense."

For the second year in a row, a future Buckeye and Ohio's Mr. Basketball saw a state championship bid fall short in the Division II final.

Last season it was Jon Diebler and Upper Sandusky, an 87-85 loser to Dayton Dunbar.

Next year those two will likely team up to try to lead the Buckeyes back to the top of the Big Ten, but Buford was not ready to think about that just yet.

"I don't even think about next year when I'm on the court with my teammates," Buford said. "I just try to stay focused on what we've got going."

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