Perrysburg senior Matt Watkins (23) goes in for a layup against Springfield’s Dominic Bracey (22) during the first quarter of a game on January 6, 2023 at Springfield High School.

Scott W. Grau | Sentinel-Tribune

HOLLAND — Springfield came back from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit, and senior guard Jordan Combs hit two free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining to give the Blue Devils a 57-56 victory over Perrysburg Friday.

Combs was driving to the basket and got around Perrysburg junior Matt Hubbard, who was whistled for the blocking foul as Combs tried to reach the rim. The Blue Devils were into the double bonus, and Combs connected on both shots.

Perrysburg led 51-39 with over seven minutes remaining, but the Yellow Jackets made 3-of-12 free throws down the stretch, giving the Blue Devils every chance to get back into the game.

Springfield’s only other lead was when Combs scored on a steal and layup putting the Blue Devils up 4-2 just over two minutes after the opening tip off, but the Jackets took a 17-9 first quarter lead and never trailed again until Combs’ winning free throws.

“We did not execute tonight at all,” Perrysburg coach Dave Boyce said. “We did not defend without fouling. Obviously, we missed free throws, and we did not show any improvement in our poise.

“You’ve got to give them credit they were better in every one of those areas.”

Springfield coach Kyle Linehan said his guys showed a lot of “fight.”

“I think coach Boyce has enough teachable moments for his guys. We’ve shown a lot of resiliency. These guys have shown that fight all year,” Linehan said.

“Perrysburg is an unbelievable team. Thankfully they missed a few free throws down the stretch which got us back into it, but the guys showed fight for 32 minutes and that is all I can ask.”

It is Perrysburg’s second straight loss, but first in Northern Lakes League play as the Yellow Jackets fall to 8-3 overall and 3-1 in the conference. Springfield is 7-3 and 3-1.

Linehan said he challenged his team before the game, and they must have heard his message.

“We told them we were 2-1 in the league, and I don’t think many people believed in us yet,” Linehan said.

“So, I said, ‘Fellows this is your chance to earn respect. You’ve got the best team in the league on your floor. Go out and just play hard for 32 minutes, get it into the fourth quarter and see what happens,’ and we saw what happened.”

Springfield 6-foot-4 senior forward Eddie Merrell III led the Blue Devils with 13 points and four rebounds, Combs had 12 points, six boards and three steals, and senior guard Robert Franklin Sr. scored 12 points.

Perrysburg’s bright shot was the long-distance shooting of junior guard Austin Shultz, who hit five triples on his way to scoring 21 points. After Combs hit his game winning free throws, Shultz had one last look at a nearly half court shot, which missed the mark.

“I was fully expecting Shultz to make that at the buzzer quite frankly, so no one was as happy as I was that it didn’t go in,” Linehan said.

Springfield had been in this position before, falling to Findlay, 54-51, in the season opener.

“Actually, that was the same situation the first game against Findlay,” Linehan said. “We were down with under three minutes to go and came back, and of course, (Findlay senior Jake) Bishop ran one in from 30 feet to beat us.”

Perrysburg senior guard Matt Watkins had 12 points and three steals but fouled out of the game with 43.1 seconds remaining.

The Jackets shot well from the floor, hitting on 52% (22-for-42) of their shots, but shot 38% (6-for-16) from the free throw line. Each team had 25 rebounds, and Perrysburg had 14 turnovers to Springfield’s 13.

The Blue Devils shot 49% (22-for-45) from the field and made 9-of-16 from the charity stripe.

For Perrysburg, senior Avery Hunt had eight points and six rebounds, junior Gavin Fenneken had six points, five rebounds and two steals, and senior Andrew Hunt had six points and four rebounds.

Senior Matt McEwen scored two points and Hubbard added one point to round out the Jackets’ scoring.

Springfield senior forward Will Mays scored eight points, senior forward Dominic Bracey scored six points with four rebounds, senior guard Robert Meese Jr. scored five points, and junior forward Aaron Adams added one point.