ROOTSTOWN _ The Rootstown Rovers claimed their biggest win of the season Monday night in a boys basketball contest you had to see to believe.
When the whistles stopped close to 10 p.m. and 59 free throws later, Rootstown had scored a 68-58 Portage County League South Division triumph over arch-rival Waterloo.
The bitter rivalry was intense from the opening tip with both teams displaying defensive pressure in a lackluster 8-6 Rootstown first-quarter lead. Before the conclusion of the contest, four players fouled out (two from each team) and Waterloo veteran coach John Herchek received his first-ever ejection in the third quarter after being charged with three technical fouls. A Waterloo player also was hit with a technical late in the contest. The Rovers (4-13, 3-8 PCL) cashed in at the foul line on 7-of-8 technical shots during the contest.
Herchek's ejection seemed to light a fire under the Vikings. But despite a 31-point fourth quarter, Waterloo couldn't overcome the Rootstown effort.
Rover senior Brian Kinter stepped up with one of his biggest games of the season. The 6-foot-3 forward scored 22 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had five blocked shots to lead his team. Kinter was forced to carry the load under the boards because 6-4 Paul Der and 6-2 Wes Scott both had fouled out early in the fourth period. Mike Dillon also contributed 11 points for the Rovers.
Rootstown coach Greg Bryte felt the key to the win was the tempo of the game.
"I think that was in our favor and we were controlling the boards early in the game," said Bryte. "We really believed that in our loss to (Waterloo) last week we didn't apply enough pressure. Tonight we rotated a lot of kids and our pressure was the difference."
Rootstown stretched its two-point first-quarter lead to 25-13 at intermission. Kinter hit a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter and on his second trey, Waterloo was called for a foul under the basket to give Rootstown a pair of free throws and a 21-8 lead at 2:34 mark.
About a minute into the second half, Herchek received his technicals and was ejected.
Rootstown's Don Losh stepped to the line and hit 5-of-6 free tosses for a 31-15 lead with 6:47 remaining in the third quarter.
Waterloo (6-9, 6-5) cut the lead to nine points but Kinter once again came through with another trifecta and a pair of two-point buckets to give his team a 43-27 advantage entering the final eight minutes.
The final quarter took nearly 45 minutes to play with 40 free throws being shot. Dillon opened the quarter with a bucket and Kinter tossed in a pair of fielders which were the lone Rootstown baskets in the final quarter. The Rovers scored 25 points in the final period, 19 of them coming from the free-throw line.
With 38 seconds remaining in the contest, Waterloo cut the lead to five points before the Rovers closed the door with five straight free throws.
Rootstown guard Alex Peloewetse stepped to the line six times and made all six in the last minute of play.
Kevin Schiele led the Waterloo scoring with 15 points while Paul Grissom had 14 and Rob Miller added 13.