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East Tech tops Lake in overtime, advances to state basketball final four

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And a child shall lead them...

The quote from the book of Isaiah fit perfectly in the regional final game between East Tech and Uniontown Lake last night at the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University.

Freshman Markell Johnson scored 27 points, including a seventeen foot jumper with just over three seconds left, lifting the East Tech Scarabs to a 62-60 overtime win over Uniontown Lake and a spot in the state's final four next weekend in Columbus. The Scarabs will take on another Cleveland area team, St. Edward, Friday at 5:15 at Nationwide Arena. East Tech becomes the first Cleveland public school to reach the state semi-finals since East High went there in 1985.

They more than earned the trip

After defeating defending state champion Mentor in the district final and then upsetting Shaker Heights in the regional final, the Scarabs would have to beat their third state ranked team in a row to reach Columbus. Uniontown Lake featured the Division II Northeast Player of the Year in Mitch Spotleson, and had rode him and great team defense to a 24-2 record and a state #7 ranking.

The game would be a contrast in styles, as East Tech wants to get out and run, and Lake wants to control tempo. It seemed early on that Lake had the game they wanted. After a the first quarter, Tech held a 12-10 lead. The Scarabs seemed to finally seemed to get the pace they wanted in the second quarter, forcing turnovers, and getting out and getting easy baskets. Led by Johnson and senior guard Johnell Free, the Scarabs took a 28-19 lead into the halftime break.

Lake would fight back in the second half

Led by Spotleson, who would finish with a team high 20 points, and Eric Belinsky, Lake took control of the game in the third quarter, outscoring Tech 18-8, and taking a 37-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Things seemed to be slipping out of reach for East Tech in the fourth quarter as Lake took a seven point lead with just over three minutes remaining.

The last three minutes were worth the price of admission

Keyed by two steals and layups by Johnson, the Scarabs went on a 9-0 run to take a 56-54 lead with 18 seconds left. After a Lake timeout, they had time for one more play, and executed it to perfection, as Spotleson was left alone for a layup with three seconds left, sending the game into overtime. It was a possession that seemed to leave East Tech coach Brett Moore shaking his head:

The play they ran on us was the one we studied the most, reminded them in the huddle about, then forgot....East Tech coach Brett Moore

The teams traded baskets in overtime, and East Tech got the ball with the score tied at 60 with just over a minute left. The Scarabs held the ball until 23 seconds remained and called timeout, setting up the last play for Johnson:

Markell is probably one of the best one-on-one players that I've coached or seen on another team. It was a no-brainer. I had all the confidence in the world in Markell....East Tech coach Brett Moore

After losing his defender after taking two dribbles to the left, Johnson pulled up just beyond the free throw line with a state title berth on the line

When it left his hand, I knew it was good. We work on those pull-up jumpers all the time. He stroked that thing. Nothing but net....East Tech junior guard Anthony Carmon

Lake's last ditch heave from mid-court came up short, and the Scarabs were off to Columbus.

This is one of the greatest days. We're supposed to be here. Everyone denied us and no one thought we should be here.... senior Johnell Free.

East Tech sits just two wins away from their fourth state basketball championship, their first since 1972. Their task won't be an easy one, taking on St. Edward, the state's #2 ranked team. At this point, I am quite sure the Scarabs have not a care in the world for the next day or so.

A Cleveland public school team is headed to the state's final four

We don't have the amenities and the luxuries that some of these other schools have. We do the best we can with what we have. We make no complaints. We just work....East Tech coach Brett Moore

Yes, they work....All the way to the state final four

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