Three-time Division III boys basketball state champion, North College Hill, was bumped out of the tournament 76-63 by Anna in the regional semifinals at Wright State’s Nutter Center. The loss ended a string of 25 straight postseason victories for the Trojans.
“We knew coming in that Anna was going to be a tough match up for us,” North College Hill coach Jamie Mahaffey said. “But these boys never gave up and they never quit.”
The key to Anna’s victory was pure domination of the paint. The Rockets out-rebounded NCH 35-25 and were able to find a number of easy shots in the post.
“We did a good job on controlling the boards and limiting them to one shot,” Anna coach Matt Meyer said. “Offensively we were able to get the shots we wanted.”
Getting most of those shots was Joel Naseman. The senior ended up with 24 points, including four 3-pointers. Derek Billing added 15 and Kreg Elsass 13, making for a well balanced Rocket attack.
Defensively, Anna survived Damon Butler’s 38 points, but was able to contain the rest of the Trojan club.
“Butler had 38, but they were a hard 38 and we contested every shot he took,” Meyer said.
From the opening tip Anna established the tempo and style of the game. Eric Niekamp hit an easy bucket making it 2-0. From there the Rockets never looked back building a 10-4 lead midway through the period. At the end of the first it was 19-11 Anna. Clearly the Rockets had no fear of facing the Trojans and their hardware.
“We watched North College Hill play at UD and saw that they had two really good players, but we feel we have a really good team and thought we could wear them down,” Naseman said.
The decisive period in the contest was the second quarter. Naseman opened the period with a 3, making it 22-11. That started a 14-4 run resulting in a 33-15 Rockets lead.
When the first half ended the Rockets were up 39-22 and in complete control. Although Butler already had 10 points, the rest of the team had only 12. Making things even more difficult on NCH was the fact they had a grand total of two offensive rebounds.
“We wanted to get a good start, but to play North College we had to be consistent,” Meyer said. “I told the kids Butler would make a run by himself. We didn’t play any different in the first or second quarter.”
Even with the 17-point half time lead, Anna took no chances in the second half. Heeding their coaches warning the Rockets maintained their intensity and lead.
NCH was able to make a minor move and at times trim back the lead. Butler connected on a traditional three-point play making it 45-32, but Naseman answered with a field goal on the other end.
That was pretty much how the third period went. When the horn sounded the Rockets still had a comfortable lead at 54-39.
In the final eight minutes Butler’s run continued, but Anna was too strong, too deep and too talented. The Trojans were never able to cut the deficit to single digits as the Rockets rolled to the regional finals.
Anna will play Columbus Academy on Saturday at Nutter. Tip off is 7:30 p.m. Academy came back from a 32-19 half time deficit to beat Shroder Paideia 68-66. Academy was led by Chris Crockett who had 23 points and Jake Beatley who finished with 17.