VANDALIA — Jefferson High School boys basketball coach Art Winston routinely reminds guard Jared Nolan not to take chances. Nolan, though, won’t be running laps for his latest gamble.
Nolan’s steal, half-court sprint and lay-up at the buzzer lifted Jefferson to a 41-39 win over Southeastern in a Division IV sectional final at Vandalia’s Student Activity Center on Friday. It’s a play Jefferson practices. Nolan worked it to perfection.
“I looked at the clock when (Southeastern) passed it in and I said somebody’s gotta steal it,” Nolan said. “He didn’t see me and I went for it.”
After Nolan’s baseline drive tied the game with one minute remaining, Southeastern passed the ball around for the final shot. Sure-handed Southeastern guard Eli Pavlatos dribbled near the top of the key, with a pair of Broncos defenders on him. Pavlatos turned his back to Nolan, who rushed around him to swat the ball away. He gathered it in near half-court and sprinted in for the winner.
“We actually practice a flick drill,” Winston said. “He flicked it out, hit the layup and I’m glad they did. I’m always getting on him about gambling. Sometimes he gambles at the wrong time. That was a good time to gamble and I’m not mad at all.”
Neither team led by more than six points in a game that had 11 lead changes. Southeastern, which led three times in the fourth, took control when Kyle VanHoose hit a clutch 3-pointer for a 38-37 lead with 1:37 left in the game. Teammate J.P. McFarland’s free throw made it 39-37 twenty seconds later.
But Nolan — who tied the game with a minute left on a baseline drive — struck the final blow.
“I told (the kids) we got the ball where we wanted, it was in the person’s hands we wanted,” said Southeastern coach P.J. Bertemes. “Everybody on our team knew that’s where we wanted the basketball. It came down to the kid from Jefferson made a tremendous play. He’s athletic, he’s quick, he’s smart. It didn’t matter whose hands we put the ball in with that situation today, that kid could’ve made that play against anybody.”
The win moves Jefferson (17-6) into the district final Tuesday at the University of Dayton Arena. They’ll take on Lockland (22-1), which knocked off Middletown Christian 63-51 also on Friday. Winston was hoping for an all-Metro Buckeye Conference district final, but instead gets the state’s fourth-ranked team. Lockland has won 13 straight dating back to its 63-57 loss to Cincinnati Seven Hills last month.
“I’m Metro Buckeye Conference so I’m (hoping for) Middletown Christian,” Winston said. “If you can get this far you’re a good team. If it’s Middletown Christian or Lockland, it’s a good team. It’ll be a tough game. We’re looking forward to it.”
To beat Jefferson, teams have to match their depth. The Broncos used 11 players, but some was by necessity. Nolan and inside power Adreian Payne missed most of the first half after picking up two fouls each in the first four minutes. They returned in the third quarter and combined for all 10 of the Broncos’ points.
“I was glad they kept it tied,” Payne said of a first half that ended 21-21. “They played a good game the first half. Me and Jared coming in, we had to bring a spark.”
Nolan, Payne and Rondale Beard led Jefferson with eight points. Beard and Payne also added six rebounds each. Strong bench play showed in the second quarter as Dwight Johnson, Britt Zachery, Irving Wood and Beard all scored to keep the Broncos close.
“Nervous no, because we play a lot of kids anyway,” Winston said of sitting a pair of starters. “By doing that the whole year you get confidence in them. The only way to learn is to get out there. They have to have confidence in themselves to play and we have to have confidence to put them out there.”
Southeastern, a fourth-seeded going for the mild upset over a No. 2 seed, appeared in good shape in the second half. Jefferson went 7:16 seconds without a point and 9:08 without a field goal over the third and fourth quarters. Four free throws kept the Broncos close as the Trojans couldn’t take total advantage.
“It’s a tough one. It hits you in the gut,” Bertemes said. “I was so proud of our guys. We went toe-to-toe with one of the better teams in the state in Division IV. It came down to a play at the end where their kid made a tremendous play.”
There was no post-game handshake after the game. Bertemes, who is good friends with Winston, told his team to go to the locker room after Jefferson’s celebration continued.
“I don’t know how long we’re supposed to wait for the celebration to end and stand there on the floor,” Bertemes said. “I didn’t intentionally not shake hands. Art is a very good friend of mine. It’s just a matter of the celebration went on and on and on so long I didn’t think our kids should have to stand there heartbroken.”