BLUFFTON – Derek Geise is playing with a broken foot, and yet, he refuses to let the injury bother him.
The Fort Jennings senior is too busy playing in the postseason, his pain hidden by the adrenaline rush that comes with life in the tourney.
“I have a fracture in my foot but I'm not going to let it bother me,” Geise said. “I'd much rather be playing because it's the tournament. I'm having fun.”
Geise enjoyed himself again Friday night in a Division IV sectional final against Arlington at Bluffton High School. The forward scored 11 points, including six during a 12-0 fourth-quarter run that broke open a close game and helped the Musketeers (13-9) earn a 45-36 victory over the Red Devils.
Fort Jennings now faces Wayne Trace in the district semifinals Tuesday at Elida.
“Our (outside) shots weren't falling so we knew we had to go down low to score points and it was working for us,” Geise said. “We made some big shots and hit some clutch free throws. It was a great win for us.”
Fort Jennings head coach John Von Sossan has been impressed with the way Geise, a team captain, has stepped up throughout the year. His opinion didn't change after Friday night.
“I don't even think he knows his foot is broken,” Von Sossan said. “He sure doesn't look like he is playing with a broken foot. Does it look like it to you? He stepped up again and that is what we need a senior to do.”
Fort Jennings has long been a scrappy, hard-nosed defensive team and it turned up the heat on its defensive intensity against Arlington in the fourth quarter. The Red Devils made only one shot in the final period, a Jacob Drerup 3-pointer that ended the back-breaking run.
Arlington was a miserable 1-of-12 from the field in the fourth. Drerup led the Red Devils with 14 points, two nights after dropping in 26 in a 46-31 sectional semifinal win over Cory-Rawson.
“I thought we played very hard on defense,” Von Sossan said. “We did a great job against Drerup. We had seen him dominate in games and we knew we didn't want him to do that against us. We were able to keep someone on him and make it tough for him to shoot.”
The Musketeers are usually a great outside shooting team but they attacked the basket on this night, particularly senior Aaron Chandler, who passed up treys for a chance to drive hard to the basket.
At one point in the first quarter, Chandler scored seven straight points, including a jumper in the lane. He drew a foul on the shot and made the ensuing free throw to give Fort Jennings a 14-8 lead at the end of the first. Chandler finished with 14 points
The Musketeers pushed their lead to 24-14 after a free throw by Geise but Arlington came roaring back, closing the half on an 8-0 run that made the score 24-22.
Paden Morehart made a putback less than a minute into the third that tied the score at 24-24. Arlington took a 33-31 lead into the fourth but couldn't hang on in the fourth as it missed shot after shot in its attempt to knock off the Red Devils.
“We got a little impatient when we lost the lead, but that has happened with our team before,” Von Sossan said. “I kept telling them to stay patient and things would work out. We played much better than we did the other night (against Riverdale, a 50-40 win).
The next stop for the Musketeers is a 6:15 p.m. district semifinal tilt against Wayne Trace Tuesday night at the Elida Fieldhouse.
Making a deep run in the tournament is nothing new to the Musketeers.
“We have been through this before,” Von Sossan said. It's kind of become old hat to us. Our fans expect us to go far in the tournament and we have a chance to keep playing if we play up to our potential.”
Geise said having a veteran coach has played a vital role in his team's success.
“Our coach has shown us the way. He does a great job,” Geise said. “We have great team chemistry, too, and I think that has played a big part of us being able to win the sectional.”