Sunday, February 14, 2016

Dixie Wins in Overtime

Two teams playing for pride left it all on the court Saturday night. They represented their respective leagues - the CCC and the SWBL, and their schools – Franklin Monroe and Dixie. No league title on the line, or district trophy – just two teams battling into the night for the right to walk out of the gym a winner. Intensity is the first word that describes this game. It was the last game of the season for both teams and either team could have take the night off and focused instead on the state tournament next week. But that is not in the DNA of these players – instead they left skin on the floor diving for loose balls and banged bodies under the boards fighting for rebounds.

The first quarter set the tone for the night. It was senior night for Dixie and they put 5 seniors on the floor to start the game. Dixie marched out to an early lead, but the Jets went on a 7-0 run and were up 14-8 at one point. In a theme that would run true the entire night – when one team grew a lead, the other would make a run and catch up. Dixie responded, closed that gap and it was 14-12 at the end of the quarter.

Dixie mixed up their defenses during the night. Using either a man to man or a zone. Meanwhile the Jets used a man to man defense and would alternately apply full court pressure to the Greyhounds. Dixie pulled ahead in the last part of the 2nd quarter. They did a good job of not letting the Jets score in the paint during this run and had a decent 25-20 half time lead.

The second half saw both teams offenses wake up and accelerate the pace. Franklin Monroe more than equaled their 1st half output in the 3rd quarter alone, putting up 21 points. Dixie clung to the lead at the end of the frantic 3rd quarter, but now it was a 1 point game – 42 to 41.

Both teams were playing defense vigorously in the 4th quarter, but Dixie was racking up the fouls and were giving up bonus before the midway point of the quarter. In the 4th quarter and the 2 overtimes Franklin Monroe was a respectable 14 of 16 from the line – that helped keep them in the game. Dixie was up by 2 with about 30 seconds left in the final quarter of regulation, but the Jet's Mason Conley hit a layup to tie the game and send it to overtime – keeping the Jets hopes alive.

In the first overtime it looked like Dixie was going to seal the win when Blake Miller hit a layup with less than 20 seconds left. But the Jet's Ethan Conley knotted the score at 67-all when he scored on a put back as the clock ran out. In the last overtime Franklin Monroe got a little sloppy with their ball handling and gave up some easy turnovers to Dixie who converted them into points. It was senior night for Dixie, but a sophomore cemented the Dixie win. Dixie was up by a point with under a minute left but were able to pad their lead when sophomore Devon Worley was fouled twice in the waning seconds of the game. He sank 2 free throws each trip to put the game out of reach of the Jets 76-71.

“It was an intense game,” remarked coach Williams afterwards, “Franklin Monroe came with some fire. I liked the battle, I liked that the kids dug deep, and in the end we got the stops that we needed and we got the shots that we needed. Blake Miller has been playing phenomenally the last half of the season. He's been playing to his potential and thats what we need for him to do. This is the first time in my 6 years of coaching that I have beaten Franklin Monroe. And it took overtime to beat them.”

And this game was just a precursor – they meet again next week in the 1st round of the state tournament. Dixie and Franklin Monroe will have another battle royale at Northmont Saturday at 6pm. So be prepared for round two, another toe to toe fight to the finish.

Scoring for Dixie: Caleb Rutledge 4, Cody Grubb 8, Austin Simpson 2, Devon Worley 21, Blake Miller 28, Joey Gengler 3, Ethan Arnett 6, Dakota Grice 4.

Upset - North Defeats South in Overtime

North has been on the wrong side of many close games this season. They have had a lot of games slip away from them. It took overtime, but North was able to win a close game and defeat South in a heated contest to end the regular season. The two teams had met at the Shawnee Holiday Tournament earlier in the season where South narrowly beat North. Both teams main scorers – Jacob Bassler for South and Kurt Brinson for North, got their points but it was the players who normally play a secondary role who stepped up for their teams and made a difference.

TCN utilized zone defenses and focused on stopping Jacob Bassler who was held to 10 points. And South focused on stopping Kurt Brinson who had put up 25 points when the teams met the first time. Brinson still put up 16 points – but had to fight hard to get every basket. So both squads needed other players to step up and score.

For North it was sophomore Gabe Brinson just back on the team after an injury. He stepped up his game with 13 points (9 of them in the 2nd half) – and he also had a great 4th quarter when both teams were battling for the lead. Both Mike Meyers and JJ Utz made an impact for South scoring 18 and 16 points respectively. Meyers kept South in the game in the opening round – he was the only South player to score in the 1st quarter.

Coach Augspurger has been troubled with South's slow starts this season. And again South was sluggish in the opening quarter. North took advantage and raced out to an early lead. Augspurger took a timeout and changed up defenses going from a man to man to a trapping zone defense. North meanwhile was using a box and 1 to take Bassler out of the game. North opened up a double digit lead and were up 17-7 at the end of the 1st quarter.

But South's defense began to take it's toll – capturing several turnovers from North. And North must have thought there was a bungee cord on the rim as they failed to hit their shots. South went on a 9-2 run and made up ground rapidly. The South crowd felt the momentum shift and became very vocal during this run. Gabe Brinson finally broke the 4 minute scoring drought for North by hitting a pair of free throws. This sparked North who began to fight back. With 1.8 seconds on the clock Jacob Bassler was fouled and he hit from the line to send South to the locker room with a 26-25 lead.

The second half had several lead changes as the two teams fought for the lead. It looked like North would have the lead going into the last quarter when Zach Edgin hit a 3 point shot. But JJ Utz knifed to the basket for a layup before the buzzer to knot the game at 38 – all.

South started the 4th quarter strong, getting baskets from North turnovers. And midway through the quarter South had a 6 point lead – their largest lead of the quarter. But coach Spitler took a timeout and North gave South some of their own medicine with a 1-3-1 trapping defense. South did not adjust quickly to this and North closed the gap as the clock wound down.

Garret Woodyard was a hero in the end game for North, but came close to being a goat. The gutty senior hit a layup with 8 seconds left to tie the game at 47 apiece and the gym erupted in pandemonium. The overtime was hard fought and again it came down to the last minute with North having to battle back from behind. Gabe Brinson put North on top with a foul shot 53-52. With 16 seconds left Woodyard was fouled – but missed both shots. Amazingly he was fouled a second time and again bricked both shots.

This left the door open for South. Any shot they made could win it and just a free throw would tie it. But on their last possession of the game they failed to get a shot off and the North squad swarmed the court in celebration.

Coach Augspurger commented after the game, “I talked to the team before the game and told them that we had the opportunity to end the season on an upnote, or if we don't then this game would make North's season. North's kids and coach Spitler did a great job – they played with tenacity and made big shots. We also talked about the fact that we are not playing well in the 1st quarters of games. We have not been shooting or defending well in the 1st quarter and we have to play from behind. Tonight we played the defense we were expecting – but we still didn't hit open shots. After the game I told the kids that we are ultimately judged by what we do in the tournament. So we will prepare next week for that.”

“I was happy with the way we competed, we had some good senior leadership,” stated coach Spitler, “Gabe Brinson had a good game, it was his first game coming back from injury. We shot well for the most part, although our free throws got a little shaky at the end. But our defense was key to our win there in the end. It's been a long time since North beat South, so it was a good way to go out for our seniors. It's a good win – we have been on the wrong side of a lot of close games, but our guys did not give up.”

Next he was asked about Garrett Woodyard “He played really well tonight. He did not let those missed free throws get him down. He made some big plays on defense. He's a competitor and has been a factor for us all season.”

Next Saturday both teams will play their opening round tournament games at Troy high school. North plays Tri-Village at 11:00 and South plays Cedarville at 5pm.