WAVERLY – Top seed Huntington survived a late scare from West Union in a 58-56 win in the first of two sectional finals at Waverly’s Downtown Gymnasium Friday night. Following game two, the ladder belonged to No. 2 seed North Adams as it opened up an early double-digit lead and then held off a valiant comeback effort by Zane Trace in a 64-55 victory.
Early on in the opener, it looked as if it would be an easy night for Rick Uhrig’s Huntington Huntsmen as the green and white scorched the nets shooting 79-percent to open up a 23-13 advantage after the opening quarter. West Union turned the table with a 10-point second-quarter advantage to tie the game at 33 going to the half.
West Union took a brief 37-35 lead early in the third quarter, but that is when Huntington’s Josh Kellough got it going. Kellough, who was recently named the Scioto Valley Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season, scored on back-to-back possessions, and after teammate Corey Cottrill scored a pair of field goals, Kellough again scored on two straight trips to stretch the Huntington lead to 47-39.
West Union’s Ash Price answered with a pair of scores to cut the lead in half, but Kellough found twin brother Justin for an easy lay-up on the final play of the third quarter to give Huntington a 49-43 advantage entering the final stanza.
Huntington led by a couple of possession for much of the fourth quarter; however, as the game entered the final minute, West Union had cut the lead to one when Drew Bear’s free throw made the score 57-56. On the ensuing possession, Kellough made one-of-two at the charity stripe to put Huntington up 58-56 setting the table for West Union to tie with a score or win it with a triple.
Following a West Union timeout, the Dragons went to Price, but when the senior was cutoff going baseline, Coach Carl Schneider called timeout to set up one last play. With 8.4 seconds remaining, the Dragons went to senior Micahel Fossyl. Fossyl launched a possible game-winning three-pointer from the right corner that seemed to go all the way down before coming out. Both Bear and Price had put-back chances to tie, but the possession eventually ended with a Justin Kellough rebound to secure the sectional title for Huntington.
Josh Kellough scored 17 points in the win, but it was the frontline duo of Cottrill and Drew Trusty that really provided Huntington with a big lift. Cottrill scored 18 points and grabbed 7 rebounds while Trusty added 10 points.
West Union, the No. 8 seed in this year’s Division III sectional, was led by Price’s 22 points as well as 14 and 11 from Fossyl and Craig Staggs, respectively. The Dragons end the year at 10-11.
The championship win improves the No. 3 state-ranked Huntsmen to 19-2. Huntington advances to the Convo in Athens where it will play in the district semifinal on February 24th. The Huntsmen will play the winner of Chesapeake and Federal Hocking – a game that will be played Saturday night at Jackson High School.
Joining the Huntsmen at the Convo next week will be Dave Young’s North Adams Green Devils. North Adams will make yet another trip to Athens thanks to an outstanding defensive effort Friday night. Zane Trace came in fresh off a stellar shooting performance in an 80-74 win over Portsmouth earlier this week, but Friday’s final proved difficult to find points. Despite the Pioneers turning North Adams over 24 times and grabbing 11 offensive boards, Zane Trace managed to connect on only 19 of its 62 shot attempts making it too difficult to ever get back in the game.
Down 30-15 at halftime, Zane Trace continued to battle thanks to an incredible effort from senior guard Beau Dailey. Dailey scored all of his 14 points after the break and recorded five second-half steals to help ZT eventually get the deficit back to single digits late in the fourth quarter; however, solid free throw shooting down the stretch secured the championship for North Adams.
“We had a really good 11 or 12 game stretch to end the season,” said Zane Trace head coach Bryan Alley. “We got in a tough bracket against two of the better teams. We were able to get by one of them (Portsmouth), but tonight we just missed too many easy shots in the first half and North Adams took advantage.”
Zane Trace, a team that ends its season at 13-9, was led by Dailey’s 14 points. The Pioneers also got 11 points from senior guard Josh McCoy and sophomore Kirk Maxwell added 10 points.
North Adams, now 19-3, was led by Kraig Unger’s 19 points. The Green Devils also got double-digit efforts from Stephen Sparks and Tyler Jimison as each of them added 11 points apiece. Next up for North Adams is the winner of Alexander and Fairland – a game that will be played Saturday night at Jackson High School.
IN OTHER D-III SECTIONAL ACTION IN THE SOUTHEAST: At Jackson High School Friday night, Ironton knocked off the undefeated top-seeded South Point Pointers 57-53. Ironton’s district opponent will be determined Saturday night at Waverly’s Downtown Gymnasium when Adena and Peebles play for a sectional title.
Wheelersburg also captured a sectional crown at Jackson blowing out Belpre 73-35. The Pirates will face the winner of Westfall and Piketon – another sectional final that will be played at Waverly Saturday night.