Sports Talk: Evan Yabs ‘uncomfortable’ being hero

Evan Yabs is a soccer standout, who just happens to be a local basketball hero, right now.

You see, the 5-foot-9 Warren senior, one of the smaller players on the Ohio University Convocation Center hardwood Saturday, made the biggest shot in his prep hoops career when he scored a putback at the buzzer to beat New Philadelphia 49-47 in an Ohio Division II regional final.

The Warrior cagers, 26-1 overall with a 21-game winning streak, are now state tournament-bound, and are scheduled to tip off Final 4 action at the Value City Arena in Columbus Thursday.

“It’s really weird, but gosh, I just don’t even know what to think right now,” said Yabs after the game-winner, which also happened to be his only points in the contest. “It doesn’t feel like it’s happened.”

Actually, Yabs has delivered in the clutch before in a similar situation but on the sectional soccer championship stage. Back in late October when Warren hosted the Marietta Tigers, he scored the match-winner in a 2-1 come-from-behind overtime triumph.

As soon as Yabs kicked the ball into the back of the net, it was over.

Just like his putback against New Philly.

“I wasn’t sure if time was going to expire or not, but I’m glad time didn’t,” said Yabs, smiling.

After Yab’s shot went into the basket, he was rushed and mobbed by his deliriously happy teammates – and stretched out on the floor. Fortunately, with so much adrenaline flowing, nobody got hurt.

Heck, Yabs even got hoisted on to the shoulders of his royal and blue teammates, so he could wave to the Warren faithful, who were applauding in the stands.

“I’m going to be more sore from getting attacked at the end of the game than playing,” said Yabs, laughing.

Oh, but what a game.

Warren had the lead and was in control for most of the contest until New Philadephia rallied and tied the game at 47-all on Marco Colombo’s baseline jumper with about 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

With 10.5 seconds remaining, Warren called timeout, and when play was resumed Dylan Leffingwell got the ball, drove to the basket, and missed a highly contested left-handed layup.

“I was on the right wing, and Dylan attacked it (the basket) – and he had a couple of guys going at him,” Yabs said. “My man left me, and I was just wide open there for the putback.”

Said Warren head coach Blane Maddox of the play called in the timeout huddle, “It was supposed to be a sideout, but we ended up scrambling, and just attacked.

“It wasn’t anything drawn up. It was all Yabs just following the ball.”

If Yabs had missed, the game, of course, would’ve gone into overtime. Mind you, Warren had had a double-digit lead for much of the contest, but the Warriors were fading and fading fast, thanks to a furious Quakers’ comeback.

“It was a little like soccer,” said Yabs of the physical nature of New Philly’s rally. “I kind of felt at home out there.”

The momentum had definitely swung over to the Quakers, and an extra session would’ve not been to the Warriors’ liking.

“They (New Philadelphia) were really giving it to us,” Yabs said, “and I’m just proud of everybody that even through adversity we stuck together, and never really…I mean, we were probably a little panicked, but we never got down on each other and we were always encouraging.”

During the game, Yabs, who plays at the point, attempted only one other shot and missed. He had an opportunity to stretch the Warren lead to 10 points with 2:38 left in the final period, but misfired on the front end of a one-and-one foul shot situation.

“I normally don’t shoot that much, because I got three great shooters (Evan French, Reece Patton, and Michael Hall) that are really good,” Yabs said. “So, I just try to get them the ball.”

Said Maddox, “He felt really bad after missing that free-throw, and I think everybody forgave him right there (after the buzzer-beating putback).”

Funny, but Yabs was almost embarrassed being in the spotlight after the game-winner.

“You know, it felt pretty good,” he said. “But I’m kind of the guy who doesn’t like all the attention and stuff like that. So, it was kind of uncomfortable actually.”

Yabs paused and smiled.

“When I look back on that, it’s going to mean a lot when I’m older,” he said.

Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com