The won by 39 in January over St. Vincent-St. Mary, but the Irish got the redemption they really wanted with a stunning semi-final win over Trotwood in the rematch.
Columbus – Perhaps no game of this 95th annual state tournament had more pre-tourney anticipation.
Just eight weeks ago Trotwood-Madison had beaten Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary by 39 points during the regular season – 100-61. The question entering Thursday afternoon’s Division II semi-final at Value City Arena was – was that the real SV-SM, and would that same Trotwood show up again?
The game was tied six times.
The lead changed nine times.
And in the end, with the score tied at 60-60 and with possession of the ball, Trotwood’s Torrey Patton had it stripped from him by Akron senior guard Jonathan Williams. SV-SM called a quick timeout, set up a play with 20 seconds remaining, and with four seconds remaining before the end of regulation guard Jayvon Graves, who had 20 points to his credit, slipped down the baseline and uncontested to the rim to score the winning bucket.
Final score….SV-SM 62, Trotwood 60!
It was the stunner of the day, and by some accounts, it’ll be the stunner of this tournament. How could a team that won by 39 points in January have such a turnaround in fortune at the state tournament?
Asked if they took the Irish for granted, Trotwood’s Myles Belyeu answered, “We just didn’t execute. We weren’t aggressive on defense. We didn’t finish.”
It wasn’t supposed to end that way – Trotwood during its last timeout had designed for Patton (34 pts) to get isolation and free rein to score, either by jump shot or drive to the rim. Jonathan Williams had other ideas.
“We knew they wouldn’t be the same team we played the first time,” said Trotwood coach Rocky Rockhold afterwards. “And I’m still a little stunned, honestly. We were very uncharacteristic today. I give St. V a lot of credit, but I really feel like Trotwood didn’t play like Trotwood today.
“I’m not sure they did anything differently than they did the first time,” he added, answering the obvious question. “They just took care of the ball a little better. We turned them over quite a bit in January, but the reality of it is we knew they wouldn’t be the same. I don’t put a lot of stock that happen in mid-January. We just didn’t finish today…too many missed opportunities on balls that rimmed out. We just didn’t get it done. We knew it would be a dog fight, and I don’t know what our shooting percentage was, but I have to believe it was awful.”
Akron SV-SM coach Dru Joyce was similarly speechless – over the leadership of his two seniors, Williams and Graves, to lift his team (24-5) over favored Trotwood and into Saturday’s Division II championship final against Wauseon.
“I’m going to miss these two,” Joyce said quietly of Williams and Graves, almost tearfully. “For them to make the plays they did to give their team a chance like that….you couldn’t ask for better leadership. It’ll be hard to see them go.
“But we still got work to do, even though our locker room sounds like they may be celebrating a little too much. We don’t come here to win the semi-final.”
Joyce’s view on the turnaround from January?
“Well, I have a lot of respect for them (Trotwood),” he added. “They handled us pretty well in January. So I guess we ought to thank them for the wakeup call. It made us understand that we weren’t as good as we thought and there was a lot more work to do. It speaks volumes in terms of the leadership these two guys have brought (Williams and Graves) since then.
“We knew we had to keep the game in the 60s – if we tried to play at their pace, if the game got in the 80s, there was no way we could win. It if got in the 80s we were playing their style of basketball. We had a game plan to play zone – I’m not a zone guy – but we work on it, we went with it today, and we stayed with it. We slowed them down and gave ourselves a chance.”
It worked. Trotwood, true to Rockhold’s worst fears about shooting percentage, finished the game having shot just 37% from the floor (21 of 57) and just 3 of 11 from three-point range (27%). And unfortunately, it negated the brilliant offensive performance of point guard Torrey Patton who scored a Division II tournament record 34 points. Belyeu added 13 and teammate Amari Davis had 10.
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary struggled to shoot, as well, connecting on just 38.5% from the field (20 of 52), and 3 of 9 from three-point range (33.3%). But where Akron really won the game…was at the foul line. Standing there 22 times, they connected on 19 of those opportunities to finish with a sterling 86.4% percentage. Jayvon Graves had a team-high 22 points, while teammates Lunden McDay and Justin Sampson added 15 and 11 points, respectively.
Trotwood finishes its season with a 26-3 mark.
SV-SM moves on to Saturday for the opportunity to play for the schools seventh all-time title in basketball.
“Today’s game was a great victory, one of our all-time best,” added Joyce. “But it’ll be hollow if we don’t win on Saturday.”
Like the man said – they don’t come to Columbus to win the semi-final!