BARBERTON — It’s a perilous habit the Greenmen just can’t seem to shake.
The members of the Aurora boys basketball team have an almost creepy knack of letting their opponents jump all over them on a regular basis.
On Friday, the Greenmen proved once again that the verse from the Bible’s Book of Proverbs might be the best way to describe them.
"As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly."
Oddly enough, Justin Gentile and his teammates may actually embrace such an aphorism.
With a twist, of course.
"This has happened a lot to us before," the senior guard said. "We’re a scrappy team. We’re always in it even when we’re not. It’s what we do."
Letting their opponents get some distance on the scoreboard has been something Aurora has done quite often this winter.
At the same time, though, the Greenmen also have figured out ways to scrape their way back from those sometimes substantial margins.
Friday was one of those valuable puzzle-solving experiences for this dubious Aurora squad.
Trailing most of the way, the usually high-speed Greenmen trudged their way to an 81-78 overtime victory over host Barberton at Jack Greynolds Floor.
For a majority of the evening, Aurora seemed to have basketball’s version of the yips.
The Greenmen missed layup after layup after layup and often looked lethargic on both ends of the floor.
As a result, the Magics, who have dealt with their share of tribulations this winter, pounced on Aurora’s difficulties to build a double-digit lead.
In fact, when Santino Fox drained a jumper from near the foul line, Barberton’s advantage was 13 (50-37) with approximately three minutes left in the third quarter.
Such a scenario has been all too common for the Greenmen in a season that has featured its share of wax and wane.
To say Aurora head coach T.J. Henderson was getting fretful and peevish is like saying the country’s two major political parties have a few polite disagreements.
"We just didn’t seem like we had a lot of energy," Henderson said. "We talked about it at halftime. We just wanted to come out and believe in what we do."
Those trust-the-process lessons needed time and possibly a special key to unlock the safe.
But the Greenmen became devout believers in these valuable principles when it was absolutely necessary.
Aurora closed the third quarter with a 12-3 run and then forced overtime by pecking through a concrete wall with its fingernails.
"In the fourth quarter, we started playing," Henderson said. "Once we hit a couple of shots, I think our kids got the confidence in them."
The Greenmen needed a bit of, well, "magic" to go their way.
And on this night, it was the Magics’ spells and potions that backfired in their faces rather spectacularly.
Barberton, which made just 9 of 16 foul shots Friday, missed a couple freebies in the final 20 seconds.
The Magics split a pair of free throws twice, which allowed Aurora to force overtime despite a four-point deficit.
It started with a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Gabe Elsawy on a well-placed pass by Gentile.
Gentile then took matters into his own hands with a difficult fadeaway jumper over a taller defender to tie the game at 69 with less than three seconds left.
"That was huge for us," Henderson said of Gentile’s game-tying shot.
In the overtime period, the Greenmen were dealt a critical blow when Elsawy, who is the team’s second leading scorer, picked up his fifth foul late in regulation and was unable to participate.
Despite the loss of his talented backcourt player, Henderson didn’t feel the least bit sorry for his players.
"We talk all the time about next man up," he said. "We practice 10-12 guys and we say, ‘Hey, you never know. It could be a foul out; it could be an injury; it could be a matchup issue. Someone has to step up.’"
Thankfully for Henderson, his players were more than happy to pick up Elsawy’s shift.
Baskets by Gentile on consecutive possessions gave the Greenmen the lead (76-73) for good and Aurora finally concluded the epic battle with some clutch free-throw shooting and an ability to track down just about every loose ball.
"With the way we shot the first half and the way we were playing, sort of like not with as much energy as we normally do, I think it definitely was something that they had to really dig in and grind," Henderson said.
When it was all over, there were no signs of "fools" who "repeated their follies."
This time, a verse from the Bible’s book of Romans may be the best way to chronicle the purified Greenmen.
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
This particularly inspiring message will most undoubtedly be approved by Aurora’s head coach.
"When we went down 13, they could have given up," Henderson said. "They didn’t."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.