Tim’s Tournament Trail: Loramie, Thurgood roll; Jackson Center, Jefferson advance

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Boys Basketball State Tournament

Three days, four venues, eight teams, boys sectionals, girls districts: Fort Loramie, Southeastern, Jefferson, Troy Christian, Jackson Center, Fairlawn, Franklin and Thurgood Marshall. What we saw…


The calender has turned March. The baggage of the regular season is history. It’s tournament time. Shock the landscape. Cut down the nets. It’s a medley of boys and girls basketball action. Three days, four venues, eight teams. Feel free to sing along…
 
D-IV GIRLS DISTRICT FINAL: Fort Loramie 65  Southeastern 38
 
TIPP CITY – The “Lady in Red” (Fort Loramie coach Carla Siegel) danced cheek-to-cheek with championship fate the past two seasons, but each time Harvest Prep ditched her on the big stage. Those painful memories of tournaments past are in the rear-view mirror and this youthful 2011-2012 edition is playing with the confidence and swagger of its predecessors.
 
“Those tournament losses hurt, but it’s a positive thing,” Siegel said. “That’s what drives me. That’s what drives my players. We want to bring one home. Loramie deserves one.”
 
The Lady Redskins are two wins away from a fourth state appearance in seven years after defeating Southeastern 65-38 in the D-IV district finals Saturday for their 11th straight victory.
 
Fort Loramie (18-6) has a dance with Shelby County League rival Russia (14-9) in the regional semifinals Thursday at Tipp City. Game time is 8 PM.
 
While waiting last in line to cut down the net, lone senior Kylie Drees said, “We knew going into the season people were going to think down on us because we lost seven seniors, but I thank all the girls who’ve stepped up and made my senior year memorable.”
 
Hitting stride as the calender screams madness, Loramie played Carla’s Way: discipline, pressure defense (forced 21 turnovers), easy baskets in transition (16 points off turnovers), and a sizzling 86-percent foul shooting (a lost art).
 
And it was sophomore sensation Darian Rose, who gashed the defense at will with a team-high 19 points. Out four games with a broken nose earlier in the season, Rose converted 9-of-9 free throws to give her 105 on the year to break the single season record of 102 set by Faye Barhorst. Last week, she drained 24 straight in games for another milestone. Her third mark of the season was 15 free throws made in a single game.
 
“During the middle of the season I missed eight in a row,” said Rose. “So I went to the gym and practiced for about an hour until I got my rhythm back.”
 
Fort Loramie jumped out to a fast 20-8 first quarter start. It happened so fast tomorrow’s paper arrived today. Six players scored and Rose set the tone with eight points and Macy Turner added four, including a downtown three.
 
Turner played valuable minutes off the bench and finished with nine points.
 
Reggi Brandewie stretched the margin 22-8 on a stick-back. Then Rose sank two foul shots and scored on a stick-back and Turner knocked down another rainbow three to build a 29-12 advantage.
 
Brandewie, a junior, has elevated her post play and ended the afternoon with six points and six rebounds.
 
Siegel commented, “Brandewie has brought her game to the next level. Kylie (Drees) is our only senior and she leads by example in practice. Darian (Rose) is strong and physical and sees that tunnel to the basket. These three girls have been the staple. They are the only girls that played for me last year.”
 
Sophomore center Renae Meyer paced the third quarter charge with six points. She scored on a baseline 12-footer and two inside stick-backs. She finished with 14 points, including 4-of-4 from the charity stripe. Hello Clair Ruhenkamp.
 
After a Drees 15-footer, Loramie led 48-25. But then…But then…Trojan Jenna Erwin launched a one-hander 90 feet. Swish. The entire crowd erupted as the third quarter buzzer sounded. Hopefully, someone caught it on tape.
 
Erwin finished with a game-high 24 points to close out a brilliant career with 1,740 points, the most in school history (boys or girls).
 
The Cedarville bound standout said, “I used to play shortstop. That’s how I got my strength. The second it left, I knew it had a chance. I’ve practiced that shot a few times and came close.”
 
Loramie outscored the Trojans 16-8 the final period for the 27-point win. Amanda Holdheide scored a bucket inside, Hallie Benanzer and Megan Imwalle stroked three-balls, and Kelly Turner sank 1-of-2 foul shots.
 
Siegel explained, “We were 7-6 at one point. I knew the first 10 games would be iffy. But the second half of the season things started clicking. The girls have grown up fast. Their confidence level is high. The chemistry is great. They are ready to make some noise.”
 
The winning coach of 237 games in 13 seasons concluded, “These girls soak up information like little sponges…It’s all about fundamentals, repetition, and confidence. And the girls do a great job with it.”
 
D-IV BOYS DISTRICT FINAL: Dayton Jefferson 39  Troy Christian 30
 
TROY – Seniors Terry Blythe and Devin Foster played on Dayton Jefferson’s 2010 state championship team and then disappeared. Blythe skipped cross town to Xenia and Foster moved to Lafayette, Louisiana.
 
Well, “The Boys are Back in Town”. And not to reminisce. These two buddies are hungry for another D-IV state championship ring.
 
Blythe told the DDN, “Devin told me that he was coming back and I wanted to play with my best friend.”
 
Troy Christian’s valiant upset bid fell short, losing to the Broncos 39-30 Friday night in sectional tournament play.
 
This was a game of cat and mouse. The Eagles opened up a 10-5 first quarter lead with a Princeton-style offense that limited Jefferson to just four possessions.
 
Freshman point guard Grant Zawadzki orchestrated the stall-tactics with two threes and Jacob Grant scored on two wide-open layups. Game plan on.
 
“That’s high school basketball,” Jefferson coach Art Winston told the Dayton Daily News. “That’s what I love about it. I don’t want a shot clock. I want to play like that and I’m serious. This is what it’s all about. I’m lovin’ this.”
 
The Broncos inched closer at the break, trailing 14-13. The score may have been low, but the pace was frantic as guards Juwan Demmings, Nicholas Thornton, and Foster turned up the defensive pressure against Eagle guards Grant, Zawadzki, and Nathan Kirkpatrick.
 
Troy Christian turned the ball over just four times and Jefferson turned it over only twice. It was a flawless first-half performance by both squads as patience and skilled ballhandling were on full display.
 
The game plan started to unravel in the third quarter when TC missed three open layups and Jefferson countered with six points in transition. Blythe nailed a pull-up three, Thornton added a layup, and Jalen Ware made 1-of-2 free throws. And Jefferson forged ahead 20-17.
 
Once the Broncos claimed the lead, they dictated the tempo and finished the game on a 19-13 scoring run. End of game plan.
 
Grant and Zawadzki led the Eagle scoring with 12 points a piece and Troy Christian finishes the season 17-6.
 
Top-seeded Jefferson (19-4) advances to the district final Friday at UD Arena against Fayetteville-Perry (9-14).
 
Blythe paced Jefferson with 16 points, Thornton added 10, and Foster tallied seven points.
 
Foster has played for three different high schools during his career. He played at Trotwood his freshman season. The 6-2 point guard averages 15.1 ppg and has big-time athleticism. He can score in the lane, is an excellent ballhandler with a nasty crossover, makes good decisions, and plays aggressive defense. He has gained interest from Cleveland State, Akron, LSU, Dayton, and Toledo.
 
Blythe is averaging 11 points and nine rebounds. He likes to post, but not afraid to step out and shoot the three. He is very aggressive on the offensive glass.
 
D-IV BOYS SECTIONAL FINAL: Jackson Center 51  Fairlawn 40
 
PIQUA – Garbry Gymnasium was packed with a sea of orange on one side and a sea of blue on the other side. And two Shelby County League teams parted the middle in a classic showdown.
 
Jackson Center coach Scott Elchert commented on the atmosphere, “It was a rockin’ atmosphere. Packed arena. A sea of orange. We could see and hear the crowd. It was reflective of our community.”
 
Jackson Center needed the “Eye of the Tiger” to defeat all-too-familiar SCL foe Fairlawn 51-40 Saturday night at the D-IV Piqua Sectionals. It was the Tigers third win of the season against Fairlawn and upped their record to 23-0.
 
“We knew it was going to be a good test. A Shelby County war,”  Coach Elchert said. “It’s so hard to beat the same team in our league three times.”
 
Kind of like getting back with your old girfriend, one never knows what to expect.
 
The Tigers beat the Jets 56-38 in December and 64-39 in January. But this was the Piqua Sectionals where  anything can happen and usually does. Just not this night.
 
The top-ranked team in the state (AP Poll) built a 29-16 second quarter lead. Alex Meyer was bombing threes and Hoying and Ryder were scoring in the paint.
 
But a desperate Fairlawn rally cut the deficit 42-38 with 3:36 left in the game. Anthony Gillem caught fire and drained two high-arcing threes and Trey Everett added a three and a baseline 15-footer.
 
Fairlawn coach Derek Alexander told the SDN, “We pushed the #1 team in the state to the limit, but give Jackson credit. They found a way to win.”
 
Jackson Center assembled a 9-2 run to close out the game and end Fairlawn’s season. And they did it all from the foul line. Alex Meyer drained 7-of-8 and Trey Elchert made 2-of-2 free throws.
 
Fairlawn was just 4-of-8 from the line for the game, while JC converted 15-of-18 throws.
 
Coach Elchert said, “We build on three things: poise, take care of the ball, and free throws.” 
 
Clicking on all cylinders most of the season, a three-minute stretch during the third and fourth quarters, Jackson Center looked fallible with uncharacteristic turnovers and poor shot selection.
 
Coach Elchert confessed, “We were a little uncharacteristic late in the game. More turnovers than usual, but our kids showed great poise and confidence at the end.”
 
Meyer, who has been on a recent tear, led the Tigers with 21 points, including four three-balls. The kid has a deadly mid-range, pull-up jumper (a lost art) and proved he can convert from long range. The 6-2 junior was 9-of-11 from the charity stripe.
 
Hoying tweaked his ankle in the first quarter, but managed 13 points and eight rebounds.
 
Eric Ryder tallied nine points and 12 rebounds.
 
Elchert scored five points with five assists.
 
Gillem paced Fairlawn with 17 points and five assists and Everett added 11 points.
 
The Tigers move on to play Tri-Village (20-3) Friday at UD Arena.
 
“We will prepare the same,” Elchert said. “Nothing changes.”
 
Just like their T-shirts read, “One game at a time”.
 
D-II BOYS SECTIONAL FINAL: Thurgood Marshall 68  Franklin 55
 
DAYTON – The regular season baggage of suspensions, forfeitures, injuries, and a middling 10-10 record is enough to drive any coach to the brink of insanity. But not Thurgood Marshall boss Darnell Hoskins.
 
“Its been somewhat frustrating, but I’m not one to make excuses. We play with what we got. It gives other kids a chance to step up and show what they got…We are playing with a full deck now.”
 
Indeed. Thurgood Marshall pressure-cooked Franklin 68-55 Sunday afternoon in a highly anticipated D-II match-up before 9,000 plus spectators.
 
It was a display of controlled rage as Joe Ballard blocked three shots and scored 15 points, including five “We’re Not Gonna Take It” slam dunks. Joe Thomasson added an incredible one-handed, ally-oop jam and finished with nine points, all in the second half.
 
Haven’t seen that many throw-downs since the NBA All-Star game.
 
Ballard said, “This is the time to step up. And I did. Everything is starting to come together and it showed on the court.”
 
The first half was a see-saw battle with 10 lead changes and three ties. It was knotted at 19-19 after the first quarter and Franklin led 32-31 at the break. And neither team’s standouts disappointed.
 
Franklin’s heralded freshman Luke Kennard scored 12 points in a variety of ways. The 6-4 point guard converted 5-of-6 free throws, scored two buckets down the lane, and bombed a three from the top of the key. Coach Hoskins recognized the mismatch with Edmond Early and switched Mark Alstork to defend. Kennard was held to two points in the second half.
 
Hoskins said, “Our plan was to run a couple of guys at him (Kennard).”
 
Jacob Rossi dominated the glass with nine rebounds. The 6-8 senior grabbed his 540th rebound at the 5:45 mark of the second quarter, a Franklin school record. He also scored six of his 15 points, including a 25-foot triple seconds before the end of the first quarter. Rossi had two of his shots blocked. That was probably a first.
 
Alstork scored 10 of his game-high 22 points in the first quarter with a dazzling array of shots. He stroked two threes, nailed a 16-footer, and scored on a running hook in transition. The 6-4 G/F played with a lot of energy.
 
“Their story is great. 21-0. Their kids played hard,”  Hoskins said. “Our conditioning prevailed in the end. We take pride in that. We are the best-conditioned team in the state.”
 
Ballard can attest, “We work hard. Lots of conditioning. Running on the track in the rain. Lifting weights.”
 
A sweeping hook by Jacob Rossi lifted the Wildcats to a 36-33 lead to start the second half. But then it was Thomasson’s turn to take over. The 6-4 senior scored six quick points and Marshall led for good 39-36. He scored on a baseline 15-footer, a 12-footer, and then his dunk off a steal.
 
The Cougars expanded the lead 48-43 after three quarters on one of Ballard’s stuffs. Thomasson scored on a floater down the lane and Alstork scored inside to make it 52-43 with 6:05 left in the game.
 
Switched to the point guard position, Travis Lakins responded with back-to-back whirling derby layups to slice the margin 52-47. Lakins finished with 14 points and the junior guard turned some heads with an impressive showing.
 
Marshall sealed the deal with a 16-8 run to close out the game.
 
Fifth-year Franklin coach Brian Bales said, “This year has been one heck of a run. A great ride…We got a full treatment of Thurgood Marshall. Their endless pressure eventually wore us down. You can’t assimilate in practice what they bring defensively.”
 
The Cougars (13-10) advance to the district finals and face Trotwood (16-7) Wednesday at UD Arena. Trotwood defeated Marshall 77-70 in the regular season finale.
 
“Its that time of the year we flourish,” concluded Hoskins. “Work hard all season and now we get to see what blossoms.”
 
It may not be flowers with Trotwood, Dunbar, and Taft in the way.

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