Dayton Christian led after each of the first three quarters Thursday, but not after the last. Thanks to stingy fourth quarter defense and the timely shooting of Treg Lymanstall, Defiance Tinora earned a spot in Saturday’s Division III state final with a 43-38 win over the Warriors at the Schottenstein Center.
Tinora (23-3) tackles Cleveland Central Catholic in the final at 2 p.m. Saturday. DC finishes 22-5.
A crowd of 11,156 watched as the team’s battled back-and-forth throughout. The contest featured three lead changes and nine ties. The largest lead of the game for DC was six points in the first half. Tinora, thanks to six free throws from Lymanstall in the final 35 seconds, built a seven-point lead that eventually ended at five.
DC, which led 20-18 at the half and 33-31 heading into the fourth quarter, managed just three points in the final eight minutes before Jay Allen scored an inconsequential bucket with two seconds left. The outcome was already decided.
“We expected it to be pretty hard-fought and even,” DC head coach Chip James said. “All week long people in our community were asking us to compare Tinora to someone we’d played against this year and I said ‘Dayton Christian.’ I think we have a lot of similarities. Both are senior-led, both rely on their defense and value possessions. I think Tinora did just a little bit better job defensively and with plays when it mattered.”
“It’s a sign of a championship team when team’s can make plays under pressure and down the stretch,” Tinora head coach Rob Mahnke. “This year and especially through our tournament run we’ve been able to make the plays. We have a very balanced team that’s playing well in the clutch.”
It was the first time DC was held to under 40 points all season.
Tinora entered the semifinals with the state tournament’s top defense, allowing just 38.4 points per game. They hit that mark and enough shots on offense to advance.
Lymanstall made most the plays.
The generously listed 5-9 junior guard scored 12 of his team-high 13 points in the second half, including back-to-back 3s that turned a 27-23 deficit into a 29-27 lead midway through the third. To close the game, Lymanstall scored the Rams last eight points, including the clutch free throws.
“We’ve been in this situation before so we definitely know how to handle it,” Lymanstall said. “Free throws are definitely big. My teammates knew I was hitting and they got me the ball so I credit them.”
The Warriors also struggled late against Tinora’s full-court pressure. DC committed only five turnovers in the first half but had 10 in the second. Tinora had 10 turnovers for the game.
“We gave them too many possessions in the fourth quarter,” James said. “Our turnovers down the stretch were very uncharacteristic of our team. We feel like typically that if people want to pressure us we can make them pay and tonight we did the opposite. You look at the stats and you never really know who won the game until you get to the turnovers and that’s five more possessions that they earned.”
DC was led by senior Aaron Deister, the school’s second all-time leading scorer, who finished with 15 points. Fellow senior standout Nathan Serenius chipped in eight. The Warriors shot 39.5-percent from the field (15-of-38) and 18-percent from 3s (2-of-11).
Tinora shot 34-percent from the floor (14-of-41) and 21-percent from 3s (3-of-14). Jon Gerken joined Lymanstall in double-figures with 11 points.
“Neither one of us shot a good percentage,” James said. “It just comes down to who gets the ball more.”
Turnovers dictated that was Tinora.
The win keeps the Rams magical run afloat. Tinora entered this season with one district title in school history (1980) but has added another district crown and regional title to the trophy case. One more win lands them the big prize.
Quite an accomplishment for a team that never appeared in or got a sniff from the AP state poll at any point this season.