ASHLAND — The Arrows reclaimed sole possession of first place in the chase for the Ohio Cardinal Conference title, but Friday’s 77-70 overtime win over Madison may prove to be a costly one.
Senior Luke Juruevic suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter. One of the OCC’s leading rebounders and Ashland’s only true post player, the 6-foot-4 Jurjevic didn’t return and his long-term prognosis isn’t yet known, Ashland coach Jason Hess said.
“It doesn’t look good right now,” a somber Hess said outside the Ashland locker room.
The Arrows (11-4 overall, 6-2 in the OCC) rallied in Jurjevic’s absence. Ashland trailed 44-37 at the time, but closed the third quarter on a 6-2 run and trailed 46-43 going to the fourth period.
The game was tied 62-62 at the end of regulation before Ashland took control early in the four-minute extra session. Grayson Steury connected on an NBA-range 3-pointer with 3:08 remaining to give the Arrows the lead for good at 67-64.
Madison’s Jayden Jeffries scored on a layup with 2:19 to play to make it 67-66, but Ashland’s Luke Denbow scored on back-to-back layups and a Kamden Mowry layup off a Steury assist gave Ashland a 73-66 advantage with 1:03 remaining. Denbow connected on 3 of 4 free throws in the final minute to seal it.
“Having Luke out really hurt us, but we had to rally around him and I think we did that tonight,” said Denbow, who scored a game-high 32 points and grabbed a team-best 12 rebounds. “In the overtime we were just doing it for Luke. I really wanted to win it for him. He’s one of my close friends so I’ll do anything for him.”
The Rams (9-6, 3-5) had won three in a row and seven of eight before Friday. Ashland hammered Madison 61-42 at Madison on Dec. 14.
“We understand a little bit better our identity and who we are,” Madison coach Chris Armstrong said. “Defensively, the guys are kind of locked in. We’re understanding how we are successful.”
Jeffries led the Rams with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Levi Zehner had 16 points and 10 boards, while Isaac Brooks added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Steury backed Denbow with 19 points and eight boards. Keslar Bates had 10 points, while Mowry added eight. Jurjevic had eight points and nine rebounds before departing.
At 6-foot-2, Bates is Ashland’s next tallest player after Jurjevic and he plays primarily on the perimeter. Replacing Jurjevic’s 9.6 rebounds a game isn’t going to be easy.
“We’re going to have to adjust some things as long as he’s out,” Hess said. “We won’t have a lot of time to do it before (Saturday’s game at Massillon Washington), but hopefully for next week we’ll get a few days of practice in and see what we can come up with.”