FAIRBORN — The Graham Falcons (25-0) remained undefeated by easily dispatching Canal Winchester, 64-50, in an OHSAA southwest regional D-II semifinal at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.
Graham moves on to the OHSAA southwest regional final (also @ Nutter Center) against the Kettering Alter Knights, March 8 at 3pm. The winner of that game advances to the final four in Columbus.
B.J. Mullins, the 7-foot-1 McDonald’s All American and prized Ohio State recruit, was assessed two personal fouls in the first two minutes of the game and Canal Winchester (21-3) – who fell behind 11-2 in the process – saw their dream season come to an abrupt end.
File this tid-bit under ‘strange but true’: C-W outrebounded Graham 28-14 and still lost by 14 points. Admit it. You just don’t see that everyday, do you?
While you are over there by the filing cabinet: The undefeated Falcons don’t even bother to list anyone on their roster as a center or a post. Graham’s tallest player, Ethan Ward, is a statuesque 6-foot-3—maybe.
“Our kids did what they have done all year,” Graham head coach Brook Cupps said after the game. “They play hard, they play together, and they are very unselfish. We played for the entire thirty-to minutes and I thought our kids played with poise.
“When Canal-Winchester came back to tie it they weren’t rattled. They’re just a special group. They were very focussed and did the things we talked about before the contest.”
Mullins scored 29 points (19 rebounds, 3 blocks) to lead the Indians down the warpath of no return on this fateful night. Remon Nelson added 14 points (3 assists)–but threw numerous entry passes to the probable Mr. Basketball at waist-level or lower, making the biggest player in the Midwest guardable by someone 10 inches shorter (re: Ward).
Darian Cartham (4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist) and Aaron Gilbert (3 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist) rounded out the scoring for Canal-Winchester.
Turn in your uniforms.
Graham’s junior two guard, Josh Schuler, led all scorers with 31 points (1 assist, 1 rebound) which is a pretty impressive feat for someone that played like he was unconscious all night. Ethan Ward joined him in double figures with 14 points (2 rebounds, 2 assists). Ben Rosenberger (8 points, 2 assists), Austin Jones (7 points, 4 rebounds), Casey Crable (2 points), and Travis Crooks (2 points) all scored for the Falcons.
Advance token to go. Collect $200.
“We’re a good shooting team and we’ve come to rely on that,” Schuler said from the jubilant Falcon dressing room. “I think that we knew that we had to take good shots, and when we took them we had to make them. We had to be efficient to win this game.”
With 4:14 left in the contest and leading 49-43, Graham went into a weave and dared C-W to foul them. But before the inevitable foul-shooting onslaught ensued, the Indians lost their cool and committed a series of technical fouls.
At 1:36 a technical was called on Mullins. It was his fifth personal foul. When he took a seat on the bench he reacted, ahem, unfavorably to the taunting of the Graham faithful.
That’s something B.J. will have to overcome in a hurry, because a bunch of high-schoolers from St. Paris are nothing compared to the exotic creatures he will meet on his first tour of the Big Ten.
And so it goes.
“Mullins is going to get his points,” Cupps said. “There’s not very much we could have done about that. I was pleased with our offensive execution and we got some stuff in transition. When we got in the half court I thought we got good looks.”
How important were the two quick fouls on Mullins?
“Pretty important,” Cupps laughed. “The more time you can play with him off the court the better off you are. I don’t know if they were good fouls or not—I’m sure Coach Riggs will say they were weak calls—but I thought they were great calls.”
Ethan Ward was the lucky Falcon that got to guard the really tall dude.
“We’re trained to be physical and tonight that was really emphasized because we were playing B.J. We were actually playing a zone. We aren’t out there on the perimeter denying a lot so it doesn’t always look like it. We relied on a lot of help from our forwards when the ball got into the low post.
“He got his points for sure, but we stripped the ball a bunch of times, too. We had a lot of backside help. He’s a great player but I think we got under his skin tonight.”
Understandably, Mullins was not made available to the press after the game. Effectively immediately he is 100% Buckeye.
Trust me if you haven’t seen him that’s a good thing. Make no mistake. When the ball got in his hands it was generally worth two points. The problem was getting it in his hands. When C-W did they looked great. Whenever they didn’t? They argued with each other and fussed about the officiating.
“I’m not even going to talk about the fouls,” an obviously disappointed C-W head coach Kent Riggs said after the game. “Obviously B.J. is always going to be the other team’s focal point.”
Alter 50, Chaminade-Julienne 45
In the second game, Kettering Alter (17-7) extended their late season winning streak to ten games by defeating Chaminade-Julienne, 50-45. The Knights advance to the regional final against Graham Falcons.
C-J’s 16-9 season comes to an end.
The game was tied 21-21 at halftime. Alter alternated between a 3-2 and 2-3 zone all night, passively picking up ball handlers at the top of the key. The Eagles played nothing but man-to-man, and more often than not they challenged ball handlers baseline-to-baseline.
No one was surprised by anything they experienced on Thursday night. There was no cognitive dissonance. These guys have all seen it before. Cross-town rivals, both of these teams are members in good standing of the Greater Cincinnati Catholic League–North Division and they had already split two games earlier in the season.
Well into the fourth quarter this game was tied.
At 5:58 Nick Royer hit a three for Alter to make the score 28-25.
At 4:21 Ryan Siggins drained another three to extend the Knight’s lead to 6.
At 3:32 Jamarre White tossed in another bomb from long distance—making the score 33-25, and converting the game into a free throw contest that they were highly likely to win.
Siggins led Alter’s balanced attack with 16 points. White was also in double figures with 12. Royer (9 points), Brian Dougherty (9 points), and Trevor Heitz (4 points) also scored for the Knights.
“We know these guys like the back of our hands,” Siggins said. “And they know us, too. That’s what makes tonight so fun. And now we get to keep playing basketball.”
Ryan Bass led the Eagles with 12 points. Alex Kauth (11 points) and Kurt Hess (10 points) also scored in double figures. V.J. Evans (6 points), Joe Staley (3 points), and Joe Szabo (3 points) rounded out the scoring.
“Usually the first three minutes of the third quarter are really key (by the end of the third quarter Alter had established a seven point spread),” legendary Alter head coach Joe Petrocelli said after the game. “We’re league rivals you know, and neither one of us really knocked the ball down from the foul line.”
How does the veteran coach envision the immediate future?
“I’m just trying to figure out if I have a place to practice on Friday,” Petrocelli laughed. “I thought our kids held together well (tonight). This is a team that seems to have gelled at the right time, but I think Graham’s really good, though. I don’t know what that is going to be like. They are a really nice club.”
A seriously undefeated club at that.
Joe Staley is another seriously veteran coach. As the long time coach at C-J he isn’t used to being on the receiving end of beatings like this one.
“Losing is always tough,” a disappointed Staley said after the game. “I don’t ever remember a season ending with a loss and feeling good about it. Alter deserves a ton of credit. They didn’t give us very many good looks.
“I thought the game turned in the middle of the second quarter. For whatever reason, we let up defensively and even though we did a pretty good job on Siggins we let the other guys get into the paint on us. That’s a lack of concentration and that is hard for me to explain.”
“Give Alter all of the credit,” Staley sighed. “They won the game defensively, without a doubt. I’m really proud of our kids because they accomplished a lot more than a lot of people thought we could.”