Chillicothe records second straight regional romp, headed to state semis


Chillicothe 71, Meadowbrook 49

Thanks to a 71-49 win over Byesville Meadowbrook in the Division II Athens regional final Sunday, Chillicothe – 23-2 and the state’s second-ranked D-II squad – will
now face top-ranked Poland Seminary (25-0), which defeated Cleveland
Benedictine, 77-63, in its regional title game, in the state semifinals
on Thursday at 2 p.m. at The Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University. Points will be plenty.

ATHENS — Chillicothe coach Gary Kellough was more than happy to put a smile on the faces at the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

After all, his Chillicothe Cavaliers had just done their part to set up a “dream” matchup in the OHSAA Division II State Tournament semifinals by upending surprising Meadowbrook, 71-49, in the regional championship game at the Ohio University Convocation Center on Sunday.

Chillicothe — 23-2 and the state’s second-ranked D-II squad — will now face top-ranked Poland Seminary (25-0), which defeated Cleveland Benedictine, 77-63, in its regional title game, in the state semifinals on Thursday at 2 p.m. at The Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University.

In the other D-II Regional finals on Sunday, St. Paris Graham (26-0) edged Kettering Alter, 69-61 in overtime; and Toledo Libbey (23-2) topped Lexington, 65-51. St. Paris Graham and Toledo Libbey will play the first D-II semifinal on Thursday at 10;45 a.m.

“The Ohio High School Athletic Association got what they wanted,” Kellough offered. “Us against Poland — that’s one against two…and Libbey against Graham — four against five — and you can’t beat that at the state tournament.”

Meadowbrook had turned up its game nicely to make an unexpected tournament run all the way to the regional finals, but for the Colts to compete with the talent-laden Cavaliers on this night, they would have probably had to reach warp speed.

Chillicothe forced Meadowbrook into a rash of first half turnovers and built as much as a 33-point fourth quarter lead before ending the Colts’ dream season at 15-10.

Despite the loss, it was a memorable season for Meadowbrook. Along the way, the Colts picked up their first-ever tournament win against rival Cambridge; the school’s first sectional title since 1989 and the first district championship since 1988.

“We got down, but our kids fought all the way and I think they represented their community extremely well,” said Meadowbrook coach Keith Arnold. “We told them the things they accomplished this year were tremendous and they should be very proud.”

Arnold was particularly complimentary of his five departing seniors, crediting them with helping to put Colt basketball back on the map.

“Our seniors gave us excellent leadership and took us places we hadn’t been,” Arnold praised. “That puts a lot of pressure on our younger guys to continue what those kids have done.

“Our five seniors — Philip Biggs, Brock Miracle, Nick Hudson, Joey Deliz and Jarrod Gray — are a great group,” the MHS coach added. “They improved so much over the past four years, and we hate to see them go, that’s for sure.”

Chillicothe’s big guns were firing all night long, with 5-9 senior guard Anthony Hitchens pouring in 27 points while collecting four assists and four steals, and 6-7 senior Ray Chambers turning in a nifty double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds. The Cavaliers also got eight points from junior Seth Dawes; eight rebounds from junior sixth man Ron Smith; and six assists and three steals from junior Caleb Knights.

Biggs closed out a fine career with team highs of 14 points and seven rebounds for Meadowbrook. Sophomore Logan Pepper chipped in nine tallies; Miracle had eight and sophomore Jeramie Neff added six. Sophomore Ethan Shriver grabbed five rebounds.

The teams had similar success percentage-wise from the field, as the Cavs connected on 30-of-63 field goal attempts (47.6 percent) compared to a 17-of-36 showing (47.2 percent) for the Colts. The big difference was the number of chances, created by a 39-21 rebounding edge for Chillicothe, and the disparity turnovers, with Meadowbrook guilty of 20 miscues to nine for the winners.

“We hadn’t faced anyone that small all year and they gave us fits until we adjusted,” said Chillicothe’s Kellough. “Coach (Arnold) runs a real good offense, but once we got our motor going, we looked pretty good.

“We’ve gotten back to playing well again the last couple of games,” he said, “and hopefully that will continue next week.”

Chillicothe brought the “heat” defensively right from the start and jumped to a 9-1 lead in a little over three minutes en route to a 15-8 edge at the first quarter break.

The Colts turned the ball over six times in the opening period and the Cavaliers converted five of them into points at the other end. Hitchens had five tallies while Chambers and Dawes scored four each in the round for Chillicothe while Biggs had half of Meadowbrook’s total.

Meadowbrook got a layup from Hudson to open the second chapter, but the Cavaliers broke the game open with a dazzling 17-2 run over the next four minutes to take total control at 32-12.

Not surprisingly, Hitchens was the catalyst in the surge with nine points and a slam-dunk by Chambers along the way brought the Chillicothe crowd to its feet.

The Colts closed the half with a 7-2 spurt, including a “three” by Miracle; two free throws by Pepper and a layup by Shriver to get within 34-19 at the intermission.

Hitchens had nine in the quarter for the Cavs, and the Colts were forced into seven more turnovers.

A Miracle “triple” got the Colts within a dozen (34-22) at the start of round three, but the 1-2 punch of Chambers and Hitchens continued to shine with nine and eight points, respectively, to account for all but four of the Cavaliers’ points in a 21-14 quarter which pushed the lead to 55-33.

An 11-0 run over the first 4:30 of the final period — featuring five from Hitchens and four from Chambers — sealed the deal as Chillicothe doubled-up on Meadowbrook, 66-33.

Although the game was out of reach, the Colts battled gamely to the end and closed with 16 of the game’s final 21 points to pare the final gap to a respectable 22 points.

“Chillicothe is an excellent team,” Meadowbrook’s Arnold stated. “They have it all. They’ve got the perimeter…they’ve got the inside and obviously, we didn’t take care of the ball as well as we needed to in the first half.”

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