ATHENS — The Minford Falcons came to Athens with a purpose and for the majority of the contest Friday night, that purpose was about to come to fruition. However, in the end, No. 2 Minford fell to No. 1 Logan Elm 57-46 in a Division II District Finals match at the Convocation center on the campus of Ohio University.
The Falcons led 30-29 with 3:22 remaining in the third quarter when Falcon senior Cody Stapleton was called for his fourth foul, which forced the defensive specialist to the bench.
Once Stapleton piked up his fourth infraction, the Braves outscored the Falcons 28-16 during the remainder of the contest. Stapleton finished with two 3-pointers for six points but throughout the game, he was tasked with holding Logan Elm’s leading scorer Dillon Young in check.
Minford coach Josh Shoemaker gave high praise to his departing senior after the game, touting Stapleton as the best defensive player during Shoemaker’s tenure as the Falcons coach.
“He was hitting shots early and he’s out best defender,” Shoemaker said. “We really needed to get some other guys going there. I thought he was doing a good job guarding. It was a huge momentum shift.”
The Falcons struggled offensively for much of the night, shooting 43 percent from the field but only hit three of 22 (13 percent) from beyond the arc.
The Falcons moved the ball well for most of the game, as they found wide open shots. However, Minford struggled to capitalize on its opportunity.
“I thought throughout the game, we missed some point blank shots,” Shoemaker said. “I thought we had good looks, we got the ball where we wanted it to go but we just came on the short end. And in the fourth quarter, anytime your playing a team like Logan Elm and your playing from behind, it’s going to be hard to pick up the victory.”
Despite the offensive struggles, Minford played strong defense, which kept the Falcons in the game. Shoemaker wasn’t surprised with his squad’s defensive effort.
“We’ve guarded well all year, led by Cody Stapleton,” Shoemaker said. “Our kids played their roles and they hit some tough shots. And we just couldn’t put it in, we had some point blank shots and we just couldn’t make it.”
Jarred McCray, playing his last game for the Falcons before he relocates to Athens to play football for Ohio University, finished the contest with 14 points and 15 rebounds, 10 of which were on the offensive glass.
McCray also battled foul trouble but he continued to dominate the post area until the final whistle.
“He’s been consistent his career,” Shoemaker said. “He’s a good post player, great athlete and he’ll have a great future at Ohio University.”
Minford concluded its first season in the Division II ranks after playing in Division III a season ago. Despite the move to a tougher division, Shoemaker’s goal had not wavered and going into next season, the expectations will continue to be high for the new Falcons’ team.
“We wanted to get a win tonight,” Shoemaker said. “We wanted to get a win, we were here last year. We want to keep advancing in the tournament. We have a lot of goals next year. Our seniors did a great job of representing the community and the school but next year, we definitely want to get a win up here.”
Minford loses Stapleton, McCray and Josh Wiseman to graduation.
“They won like 39 games for us the last two years,” Shoemaker said. “They are going out winners.”
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, or on Twitter @crslone.