Two cataclysmic droughts meant the end of the line for Lehman and Fairlawn, while Russia and Jackson Center moved on to a third meeting Friday night…this time with a sectional title at stake.
The late, great broadcaster Dick Enberg would have had two words for ya—OH MY!
The second-seeded Raiders and the fourth-seeded Tigers will meet Friday night for the sectional title after taking very different routes to the championship game.
Very different, yet similar.
Russia ran away from Lehman 61-35, using a 24-1 run around halftime to blow open a close game.
Jackson Center gave its fans indigestion before pulling out a 32-27 decision over a combative Fairlawn team that stayed in it until the final seconds.
What was similar, you ask?
Russia held the Cavaliers to one field goal in a nearly 11 minute span in improving their record to 15-8, while the Tigers held the Jets completely scoreless for almost 10 minutes in completing a three-game sweep of their Shelby County League rivals.
In the opener, Jack Dapore hit a pair of threes to get Russia off to an 8-0 lead, but Elliott Gilardi scored 6 points in the quarter for Lehman and the Cavs trailed just 13-10 after 1.
A three pointer by Preston Rodgers gave Lehman a 21-20 lead midway through the second quarter, but Jordan York quickly gave the Raiders the lead back with a three, and Lehman went the final 2:54 of the half without a point as they trailed 28-21 at the break.
That was just the beginning of Lehman’s misery.
In the third quarter, Dapore hit two more threes, and Daniel Kearns added 6 points as the Raiders out-scored the Cavs 20-4. At their end of the floor, the Cavs missed 11 of 12 shots from the floor and 6 of 8 chances at the free throw line. It was 48-25 after three and the outcome was no longer in doubt.
“We knew they would play that 2-3 zone,” Raiders coach Spencer Cordonnier said. “We did nothing but work on zone offense all week. I was worried about it because we hadn’t seen it much and hadn’t looked good against it. Once we settled down and started taking care of the basketball, we played pretty well.
“It was the first time on this stage for a lot of these guys. In the first half, we took 11 threes and eight twos. That’s not who we are. In the second half, we started taking our shots and took care of the ball. That was the key to the third quarter.”
Dapore led the Raiders with 20 points, including 5 threes. York added 14 and Kearns added 10. Gilardi had 13 to lead the Cavs, while Rodgers finished with 11.
Russia shot the ball well from everywhere. The Raiders were 55% from the floor, 50% from the arc, and 71% from the line. Lehman, not so much. The Cavaliers were 30% from the field,14% from the arc and 50% from a not very charitable free throw line.
Russia out-rebounded the Cavs 31-23, and had 15 turnovers to 12 for Lehman.
“This year has been a grind,” said Cordonnier. “We played a lot of games earlier this month and put everything we had into the Loramie game the last Friday, then had to go to Marion on Saturday. We had 10 days off and I think our kids welcomed that break.”
Friday will be the Raiders third sectional final in as many years under Cordonnier. The Raiders lost the last two seasons to Fort Loramie.
“You know that it will be loud, regardless of who we play. We had trouble at times tonight communicating with each other, and that is going to be very important Friday. Both are great teams, and their coaches are good friends of mine. Regardless of who we play, it will be a special night.”
Jackson Center had defeated Fairlawn by 8 and 15 points during the regular season, but the second game of the evening had a different feel from the outset. The Tigers couldn’t find the range early, and with Drew Brautigam effective inside, Fairlawn took a 7-0 lead. Bryce Sosby finally got the Tigers on the board, and the Jets led 10-4 after 1.
To say the second quarter was a little odd would be an understatement. Neither team scored for nearly 5 minutes, a combination of tremendous defense and good shots for both teams that simply would not fall. Christopher Elchert finally broke the double-drought with a Jackson three, and when Aidan Reichert scored a put-back off a Sosby miss just before the halftime buzzer, Jackson had its first lead of the game at 11-10.
“The second quarter was huge for us,” said Jackson Center coach Scott Elchert. “I think we could have panicked a little bit because I don’t think we had a more than one good first quarter shot. Our kids settled down, though and took more of our kind of shots in the second quarter.”
The second half was just as much a battle. The third quarter ended with the Tigers still up a point and this statistical oddity. Aside of Brautigam’s 14 points, the Jets had one field goal in 24 minutes—a first quarter three by Skylar Piper. Yet they trailed by just a point.
Jackson Center slowly built the lead at the foul line in the fourth quarter…but missed just enough to leave the door open for a Jets comeback. And comeback Fairlawn did.
Ashton Piper’s three cut the Tiger lead to 27-23, and after a Tiger free throw, senior Luke Hickman scored his only field goal of the night on a drive to get the Jets within three. Ashton Piper made two free throws to make it a one-point game, but the Jets turned the ball over with a chance to take the lead.
Aidan Reichert made a pair of free throws to put the Tigers up three with 35 seconds left. On the Jets next position, Hickman found himself open in the left corner and his bid for a game-tying three looked like it was three-quarters of the way down before it spun out of the iron. It was just that kind of night for the Jets.
“I say this all the time,” Elchert said outside the Tiger locker room. “It’s two Shelby County League teams playing for the third and you get games like this because we know each other so well.
“I feel for Fairlawn, Their kids played their hearts out, just like ours did. It was just a game between two teams playing solid defense that know each other very well.”
Sosby led the Tigers with 13 points, while Reichert had 7 and Trent Platfoot 6, all from the line. Brautigam scored 7 in the first and 7 in the third to finish with 14 for the Jets.
“Bryce is our catalyst,” Elchert said of his senior guard. “We ask a lot of him, handling the ball, guarding one of the top player on the other team. He came up big, but he needs to, because he has more tournament experience than most players on the floor.”
Some thought the game ugly, but it was a Garbry Gym sectional classic, especially the final 8 minutes. Jackson took 24 shots in 32 minutes, and made 8, for 33%. Fairlawn took 32 shots and made 9, 28%. There was no such thing as an open look, an uncontested shot.
Fairlawn out-rebounded the Tigers 23-21, and both teams took care of the basketball…Fairlawn had 8 turnovers to the Tigers 7.
Elchert shook his head when he looked at the stat sheet and saw that the Tigers were 11 of 19 at the foul line in the fourth quarter.
“That can’t happen, and it usually hasn’t been a problem for us. I suppose the physicality of the game took its toll at the foul line too. I imagine we were little fatigued there at the end.”
Now it’s the Tigers and Russia for the third time. The Raiders swept the season series, 38-33 at Jackson and 46-44 at home.
“Again, it’s going to be two teams that know each other very, very well,” said Elchert. “There won’t be many surprises. They played very well tonight. We can’t have any mental breakdowns defensively. We are going to have to do a better job on the boards and make shots. It’ll be fun.”