UPPER SANDUSKY – As Ohio State head coach Thad Matta slipped quietly out of the Upper Sandusky High School gymnasium with his youngest daughter, Jon Diebler was surrounded by hordes of reporters, cameras and Ram fans celebrating not only a conference championship but also their part of history.
This was Diebler's night.
Matta was just one of approximately 1,7000 people that crowded into an electric setting for high school basketball witnessing Diebler break Jay Burson's all-time record for most points scored in a career in the history of Ohio high school basketball. Matta, former Ohio State standout and color-commentator Bill Hosket joined Burson and his family to watch Diebler score 44 points and become the No. 1-scorer in the history of Ohio with 2,960 points Friday night.
"It was just another basket," Diebler told masses of interested listeners after the game. "Everyone kind of went crazy but like I said, it's not just for me, it's for everyone in this community, the three communities I've lived in and all of my teammates."
Upper Sandusky notched a 90-64 victory against conference rival Norwalk to take home their second outright Northern Ohio League Championship in three years. But the bigger story for fans of Ohio basketball was Diebler's final two baskets of the evening.
Diebler intercepted a pass at mid-court with 3:11 left in the game and took it all the way to the hoop for a thunderous slam-dunk that brought the capacity crowd to their feet as he tied Burson's 22-year old record of 2,958 points.
Just 20 seconds later following a Norwalk basket, Diebler brought the ball up the floor and delivered a pass to the right wing to senior guard Jarryd Nelson. Diebler immediately sliced to the basket and Nelson delivered him the ball in-stride as Diebler made a driving lay-up with 2:51 on the clock for points 43 and 44.
The world and the game both stopped at once. Surrounding Diebler at halfcourt were his teammates, coaches, photographers, Ohio High School Athletic Association officials, Burson and his family as well as Diebler's father (and coach), Keith.
"It was kind of like the state tournament with both him and (his brother) Jake – you kind of see things happening and you wish you could freeze it in time to really appreciate what's happening," Keith said of the moment his son scored the record-breaking field goal.
Among the hype and hysteria as well as anticipation of Diebler possibly breaking Burson's record Friday evening, he's had to shoulder the agony of a grandfather being admitted into the hospital for pneumonia on top of everything else.
Keith said it was an eye-opener for he and his family to appreciate one another and enjoy everything life throws at them.
"It's made me kind of take things slow," the elder Diebler added, "and also really appreciate these moments."
The game was halted for nearly 10 minutes with Upper Sandusky holding a 34-point lead as Diebler was honored by the OHSAA with a plaque for his accomplishment. The brief ceremony included Burson and Diebler exchanging handshakes at halfcourt.
Burson was also honored for his place in Ohio high school basketball history.
"It's an honor and I think that I really had not reflected a lot on it until the last week or so," he said Friday evening. "I'm honored and flattered that someone thinks highly of the record."
Entering the game, Diebler had 2,916 points and needed at least 43 to break Burson's mark. His season average, ironically enough, was just shy of 43 points per game.
Adding to the perfect irony was the fact it was Diebler's final home game. It was senior night and a chance to break the record on his home floor – the last time he would play in that gymnasium.
It couldn't have been scripted any better.
"Not at all," said a thankful father and head coach. "I just can't wait to get home, close my eyes and thank God for how this turned out."
With their sights set on an NOL Championship, Diebler and his teammates played remarkably consistent and with near perfection despite all the hoopla.
Diebler jumped out in the first quarter with 11 quick points.
He followed it up in the second quarter with another 12 points. He also had four assists and it was clear he was not letting the possibility of breaking the record change his philosophy.
But in the third quarter, Diebler mostly got his teammates involved. Despite making several no-look and behind the back passes to his teammates, that often were dropped, Diebler took just five shots and scored 7 points on two field goals.
As the anxiety grew to start the fourth quarter, Diebler was stuck on 30 points with just six minutes remaining.
A decision had to be made with the Rams winning by 30 points.
"I was debating as a coach on whether to take him out and wait until next week," Keith said about weighing the father versus coach aspect, "but we let him finish it and I'm glad it's over. I think he's glad it's over."
It was quickly apparent with just under six minutes remaining that Diebler would get the record.
He calmly made a couple of shots and sank a pair of free throws, and by the time it got under five minutes left, he suddenly had 38 points – just five shy of the record.
"We kind of let him go," Keith added. "I think the kids sensed it too."
Diebler made a pair of free throws to get to 40 points with 3:27 remaining. It was two possessions later that he made the steal and dunk to tie it before breaking it at 2:51 and making history.
"Mister Burson said it correctly in the paper," Diebler said. "It's not a record for him or I, it's a record for the fans."
After the game, Diebler barely had enough time Matta to whisper congratulations in his ear before sneaking away.
Diebler then finished up with reporters, cut down the net with his coaches and teammates and continued to sign autographs for over an hour after the game ended.
For the first time, he could have signed those autographs, "Ohio's No. 1-scorer."
He probably signed them, "NOL Champs."
Sure, it's his night, but it was also his team's night as well.