High School consisted of two Division II state title contenders as
top-ranked Dayton Dunbar took on No. 5 Chillicothe. A fast start got
Chillicothe off to an early lead and a fourth-quarter
offensive explosion from senior guard Anthony Hitchens was more than
plenty to withstand a second-half Dunbar push as the Cavaliers pulled the mild
“This is a great win for our kids and they deserve it,” said Chillicothe head coach Gary Kellough. “Our kids have paid the price over the past few seasons, this past off-season, and throughout this season. The kids have worked extremely hard and they love the opportunity to perform on these big stages. The support was incredible here tonight, and our players appreciate that and are becoming more and more comfortable playing in front of big crowds.”
Chillicothe jumped out to a 12-3 advantage behind the strength of its tenacious defense. Cavalier junior Caleb Knights came up with three first-quarter steals to help Chillicothe limit Dunbar to just one field-goal in the game’s first four-and-a-half minutes. However, Dunbar was then able to settle down and the Wolverine offense began running through 6-10 Joshua Benson. The senior center became active forcing several Chillicothe fouls. This forced the Cavs to go to their bench and it also allowed Dunbar get to the line to help close the deficit. Benson connected on seven of eight first-quarter free throws to help close what was once a nine-point Chillicothe advantage to just one at 16-15 entering the second quarter.
The second period began much like the game started as Chillicothe spurted out to a 26-18 advantage, but again it was Dunbar closing the gap to 29-26. The big play then came from Chillicothe’s Ray Chambers. It was fourth times a charm for the 6-7 senior as Chambers missed three straight shots around the basket, but his relentless effort allowed him to own the offensive glass as he finally connected on his fourth attempt while drawing the foul as well. Chambers then added the free throw and pushed the Cavalier lead back to multiple possessions taking the teams to intermission with Chillicothe leading 36-30.
“We wanted to force them to run a half court offense,” said Kellough when asked about trying to contain Benskon. “We wanted good ball pressure in the scrimmage area to try and make it as tough as possible for them to feed the ball down low.”
The start of the third quarter was one of the few times Dunbar had success in establishing some offensive rhythm. A bucket from Benson, a 3 from Keith Winn, and back-to-back buckets from Harvey Stewart were all a part of an early third-quarter spurt that saw Dunbar eventually tie the game at 41-41 and grab its only lead at 42-41 following a technical foul called on Kellough.
The lead was short-lived thanks to a triple from Knights – the second of the quarter for the 6-1 guard – and the Cavs eventually ended the quarter up 46-42 thanks to a Seth Dawes put-back basket with just four seconds remaining.
The stage seemed to be set for a tight fourth-quarter struggle between these two, top-five teams, but Chillicothe’s Anthony Hitchens had other ideas. The 5-10 Cavalier guard scored four quick points to start the game’s final period putting Chillicothe up 50-42. The Akron-bound senior would eventually score 15 of his game-high 31 in the fourth. Hitchens shot 11 of 17 from the floor – including a near perfect five of six in the fourth – on the night knocking down two triples and seven of nine from the charity stripe.
“Our lead was starting to get away and I felt like we were starting to lose our composure,” said Hitchens when asked about Dunbar’s run at the end of the third quarter. “As a captain and a leader, I wanted to get aggressive and help stretch our lead back out. Dunbar is a great team. We knew they were going to make their run, and we knew we had to answer that run.
“This is a big win, but to us all wins are important,” the All-Ohioan guard continued. “There No. 1 and we’re No. 5…all of that doesn’t matter. We feel like we’re supposed to win. For us to reach all of our goals in the end, we have to win these games.”
Hitchens was joined in double-figures by Chambers with 16 points and 11 rebounds and Dawes with 10 points. Knights also played a great all-around game scoring 7 points, grabbing three rebounds, dishing out three assists and recording four steals.
For coach Peter Pullen’s Dunbar team, which suffered its second loss of the season, Benson led the way with 18 points and Winn scored 13.
“We feel like we are still improving,” said Kellough as his Cavaliers won for the thirteenth straight time after losing their opener to Brookhaven. “As we move forward, we expect our kids to keep getting better while preparing for the next big challenge. We have an experienced group and they know what it takes to compete at a high level.”