Cleveland Central Catholic uses defense, length to earn first state championship


Cleveland Central Catholic limited Tinora to a record low 38 points in the D-III state final. (Photo by Gary Housteau)

Tinora made history Saturday, but not the right kind. The Rams were held scoreless in the first quarter and scored a Division III finals record low 38 points in a loss to Cleveland Central Catholic in the state championship at the Schottenstein Center. CCC had a lot to do with Tinora’s ineptitude.

COLUMBUS Something took place during Saturday’s Division III state championship game that had not happened since 1931. Two other things materialized that had never happened before.

Defiance Tinora’s scoreless first quarter was the first time in 78 years that a team had not scored a single point in a quarter of a state championship game. Cleveland Central Catholic’s 45-38 win over the Rams marked the first state title in program history. Tinora’s 38 points was a D-III finals record low.

This game was not a thing of beauty. It was memorable though.

A crowd of 12,041 at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center witnessed the Ironmen (24-3) run out to an 11-0 lead after one quarter and then rally to head home with the hardware. That’s right, Tinora (23-4) came back to take the lead – twice.

“I’ve never been more proud of 13 guys in my life,” CCC head coach Kevin Noch said. “It’s a humbling experience and these boys have endured a lot. It’s a tough situation down there at Central Catholic. Fleet Avenue is a tough area and these are tough kids.”

Tinora, which had overcome hefty deficits in each of its previous three games, dug itself a sizeable hole after the tip. The Rams went 0-of-9 from the field, were outrebounded 10-6 and committed six turnovers in the first eight minutes.

“I don’t think we could have played a worst first quarter,” Tinora head coach Rob Mahnke said. “Unfortunately we shot the ball extremely poorly tonight. Give the credit to CCC. We’ve had better shooting nights.”

In the second quarter, the teams traded uniforms.

Tinora (23-4) opened the stanza with a 14-1 run and took its first lead (14-12) at the 3:28 mark thanks to a bucket by Taylor Wiemken. CCC (23-3) rallied for a 17-14 halftime lead.

Tinora’s Gregg Gerken hit four straight free throws to open the third quarter and the Rams took their second and last lead 18-17. CCC responded with a 6-0 run. The Ironmen led 31-27 after three quarters and used a 9-1 run to open the fourth to separate themselves.  

Tinora cut the lead to five points (43-38) with 15 seconds to go but it was too little too late.

Tinora’s scoreless first quarter was the first since Lancaster St. Mary’s failed to score in the fourth quarter of the 1931 Class B final. It was the fourth scoreless first quarter in state finals history and the first since Rome High School failed to do so in the 1930 Class B final.

As a team the Rams shot a miserable 13.6-percent from 3-point range (3-of-22) and were just 14-of-52 from the floor overall (26.9-percent). Tinora committed 17 turnovers.

“They put a lot of pressure on the ball handler and made it hard to bring the ball up the court,” Mahnke said. “They were denying our wings and making it hard for us to get into the sets we wanted to run. With the big guy in the middle (sophomore Anton Grady) we’d get in there and then struggle to finish because of his presence. The pressure they brought made it tough for us.”

The Rams starters scored just eight points combined. Gerken, coming off the bench, led Tinora with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while sub Jon Garmyn added eight points. Tinora’s bench outscored CCC’s 30-3.

“We figured they liked to keep the score low and that they can shoot the ball,” Noch said. “I think because they are so patient on offense I thought that our quickness and a few of our blocks really made them adjust. It was obvious, they didn’t shoot the ball with a lot of confidence and I thought it was because our pressure was excellent.”

CCC was led by junior Chall Montgomery who had 16 points and six boards. Derrick Buford and Brandon Campbell each scored 10 points and had four rebounds. Campbell dished out seven assists.

Grady, a 6-8 sophomore who had a big outing in Friday’s semifinal win over Piketon, was limited to six points on 3-of-11 shooting. He also had three rebounds, three blocks, two assists and two steals. Despite his lack of offense, Grady’s length was instrumental at the defensive end.

“We rely on defense and if it’s close we think that our defense is going to push us over the top,” Grady said. “It was a little frustrating that with five minutes left it was still close. We’ve had eight games this year though that have been decided by three points or less so we know how to get it done down the stretch. And we got it done today. We won it all.”

Said Noch: “In the summer I saw a potential for us to make a run this year. You never predict to win it all but it’s always been a goal to hang a banner at Central Catholic. We didn’t get the NCL this year but we got the biggest one of all. It was a goal – but it was the furthest goal. And we hit it.”


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