STEUBENVILLE — It's more than appropriate to say that this year's group of Meadowbrook High School Colts is not an ordinary group of boys wearing orange and white.
This year's contingient of Colts – seniors Philip Biggs, Nick Hudson, Brock Miracle, Jarrod Gray and Joey Deliz; juniors Nick Yakubik and Justin Haught; and sophomores Jeramie Neff, Ethan Shriver, Logan Pepper, Alex Robertson, Steven Minyo, Andrew Nichols, Tyler Oliver and Aaron Wickham – have done things that haven't been done in two decades or even longer at MHS.
Head coach Keith Arnold's bunch swept Guernsey County rival Cambridge in the regular season and they KO'd the Bobcats (36-34) from postseason play for the first time in MHS history. They then proceeded to capture the first sectional crown in 19 years after a 62-45 victory over West Muskingum at Coshocton High School.
The Colts added to their already impressive 2007-08 resume by capturing an Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II District Tournament championship by fending off a pesky Carollton squad, 63-58, on Wednesday evening at Steubenville's St. John Arena.
Arnold, also known as 14-win Keith, who ironically won his 14th this season after besting Carrollton, couldn't hide a giant smile after celebrating with his team as it cut down the nets. He knew his team had the confidence to accomplish the things it has despite losing seven seniors to graduation.
“I think the guys have always believed in themselves,” Arnold stated. “Coming into the season, there weren't a lot of expectations outside of the program. All summer long, these guys worked hard to get better and they felt they could be a pretty good team. We felt if we could steal a few early in the season while getting adjusted and then play our best basketball heading into the tournament…I think we accomplished those things. We've really stepped up in the postseason.
“These guys have believed in each other and it shows out there on the court. They are really a great group of kids and I'm proud of them. They deserve to be going to the regional tournament. They have really made my job easier every day,” Arnold added.
Meadowbrook (14-9) once again got out of the gates strong with a 5-0 lead early on – Biggs tallied a bucket while Neff drained a trifecta – only to watch Carrollton (7-17) come storming back to tie the game at 7-7 all midway through the first quarter of action.
By the end of the first eight minutes, the Warriors had grabbed a two-point edge at 15-13, despite the solid play of Biggs, who had four first quarter blocks.
In the second quarter, the Colts seemed to settle down and it showed on the scoreboard as the visitors outscored the streaking Warriors, 19-5, including Neff's three-point goal with just over two ticks left on the clock, giving the Colts a 32-20 halftime lead.
Arnold said his team had a little bit of trouble early on in the game against Carrollton's defense, but noted it did a much better job in the final three quarters.
“It took us a couple of possessions to get used to their 1-3-1 zone,” Arnold admitted. “Once we were able to get adjusted, we were able to be more aggressive and use our penetration, which opened things up on the outside. Jeramie did a nice job of knocking down shots while Nick (Hudson) and Philip did a nice job of finding him when he was open.”
The Colts ended up building their largest lead of the night by tallying the first five points of the second half. Trailing 37-20, Carrollton chose not to roll over and came storming back, eventually cutting it to six (45-39) by the end of the third frame. Left-handed point guard Hunter Borland, a 6-2 senior, knocked down two triples while 5-7 junior guard Tyler Haugh buried a three in the left corner during a quick 9-0 run in the late stages of the third quarter.
In the final frame, the Warriors made things very nerve-wracking for the Colts. They cut the margin to as low as three points, but the play of Biggs, Shriver and Hudson proved big. With less than three seconds on the clock, Biggs knocked down a pair of free throws to ice the game and send the Colt faithful into pandemonium.
Meadowbrook's mentor praised his team for keeping its composure while watching Carrollton go on an amazing run.
“Carrollton played extremley aggressive down the stretch,” Arnold noted. “However, our kids found a way to execute on the offensive end. We were able to also be aggressive and find a way to attack. I was pleased we were able to get it done down the stretch.”
The Colts were led by Biggs, who tallied a game-high 26 points, 16 rebounds and 11 blocks. Neff chipped in 16 points, including four treys, while Shriver finished with 13 markers. Miracle, who was the shining star in Meadowbrook's sectional victory over Cambridge, added eight points.
Although the Colts are moving on and are excited to be doing so, Arnold said there is one area where MHS will need to improve as it heads to Athens.
“Next week, we're going to have to start out better defensively than we did tonight,” Arnold commented. “It's only going to get harder with each game. Once we settled down, I thought our post players played well in there. We were really guarding the perimiter because of their good shooters, which left our post guys playing 1-on-1 almost all night long. I thought they all did an excellent job of controlling the space down there.”
Borland and Haugh each netted 17 tallies to pace Carrollton. Derek Dowell finished with eight points, A.J. Dalton scored seven points; John Lowdermilk posted four markers while Pierce Oaks and Ben Mallette rounded out the scoring with three and two points, respectively.
NEXT–The Colts will play in the D-II Regional at the Ohio University Convocation Center in Athens on Thursday, March 6 at 8 p.m. against the winner of Dover (20-2)-Maysville (16-6), which will be played on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. in Steubenville. The two Eastern District co-champs will be joined by the two survivors of the Athens District, which will square off on Thursday, March 6 at 6:15 p.m. at the Convo. The regional title tilt is slated for Saturday, March 8 at 3 p.m.
MEADOWBROOK 63, CARROLLTON 58
Nick Yakubik DNP, Jeramie Neff 6 0-0 16, Logan Pepper 0 0-0 0, Andrew Nichols DNP, Justin Haught DNP, Joey Deliz DNP, Philip Biggs 10 5-7 26, Brock Miracle 4 0-0 8, Steven Minyo DNP, Ethan Shriver 5 3-3 13, Jarrod Gray DNP, Alex Robertson 0 0-0 0, Tyler Oliver DNP, Aaron Wickham DNP. Totals 25 8-10 63.
Tyler Haugh 7 0-0 17, John Lowdermilk 2 0-0 4, Pierce Oaks 1 1-2 3, Robbie Smith DNP, Hunter Borland 7 0-0 17, Jordan Fessenmeyer DNP, Kristian Cross DNP, Ben Mallette 1 0-0 2, Markus Warner DNP, Chris Erickson DNP, Derek Dowell 3 2-6 8, Jake Bender DNP, JEsse Roof DNP, A.J. Dalton 3 1-2 7. Totals 24 4-10 58.
Meadowbrook 13 19 13 18 — 63
Carrollton 15 5 19 19 — 58
Three-point goals-MHS 6 (Neff 4, Biggs 2); CHS 6 (Borland 3, Haugh 3). Fouls-MHS 11; CHS 14. Fouled Out-none.