McDERMOTT – The South Webster Jeeps’ basketball season came to an end Wednesday night at Northwest High School in the sectional final round of the OHSAA Basketball Tournament. There was standing room only in McDermott as the number seven seeded Jeeps tried to upset the number two seeded Eastern (Pike) Eagles.
After a near hour delay to the start of the game, due to a downed tree falling on an electrical line and causing a power outage at the school, the Jeeps fell to the Eagles 71-53.
Emotions ran high Wednesday night with the players, coaches, and fans. The only thing running higher than emotions was the effort of play by both teams, however unfortunately for South Webster, Eastern would end up prevailing in the win or go home scenario.
“I thought they were the more aggressive team, and we didn’t do a good job of adjusting to that,” South Webster coach Ryan Fenton said. “They did a good job keeping us out of the paint and forcing us to take outside shots.”
South Webster has been successful with outside shooting this year, but those shots just weren’t landing for the Jeeps Wednesday evening, causing difficulties for the offense to get rolling and into a rhythm.
“Our outside shots didn’t fall,” Fenton said. “I thought, especially early on in the first half, they hit some tough shots.”
The Eagles found a quick rhythm against the Jeeps in the early stages of the game. Eastern had tremendous success shooting in the first half, hitting 67 percent of their field goals. The majority of those scores came by way of a jump shot, with a few layups.
“That’s a tough thing to do, but that kind of kicked us in the gut early,” Fenton said. “We just couldn’t seem to get over that hump. Every time we’d cut it close, they’d hit a shot on us. Things like that just can’t happen. We’ve got to understand when we make our run, it has to be continuous.”
Fenton added if the Jeeps were going to move on to the Convocation Center on the campus of Ohio University in Athens, they couldn’t afford to continue to dig themselves into holes, something they were unable to prevent against Eastern.
It was just a bad shooting night for the Jeeps.
“It wasn’t just one guy, collectively, we just weren’t hitting shots,” Fenton said. “We do have good shooters, and really I’ve preached all year we rely on the three too much. We can’t rely on it. We have to start from the inside out, because when that happens, in games like this when you’re not shooting well, well now you’ve backed yourself into a corner.”
Fenton was unsure what exactly caused the bad shooting night for his squad.
“I don’t know if it was nerves, I don’t know if it was the moment, I don’t know if it was fatigue,” Fenton said. “At the end of the day if the ball doesn’t go in, you’ve got to find another way to get it in the hoop.”
The offensive struggles began early for the Jeeps. After taking a 1-0 lead after a Nate Hadinger free throw in the first minute of the game, the Eagles would respond with a 6-0 run. That run would end with a Hunter Bennington three, to cut Eastern’s lead to two points, 6-4, about halfway through the fourth quarter.
Eastern would finish the first quarter hitting nine field goals, seven two-pointers, and two threes, to take a nine point lead, 20-11, at the end of the first quarter.
The Jeeps would settle down in the second quarter, but would continue to struggle on offense. South Webster would score 12 points in the period, 10 of which came from Shiloah Blevins.
The Eagles would increase their lead going into halftime by a single point, 33-23.
Shortly after the buzzer signaling the end of the half, Eastern’s coach Tom Barrick was hit with a technical foul after arguing with an official as his team was walking off the court to head to the locker room.
As Shane Zimmerman was approaching the free throw line to take the team’s two free throws, two fans from the Eastern side of the stands were ejected, after arguing with the same official who called the technical on Barrick.
South Webster hoped to take advantage of the technical. They hit both free throws from the foul, and then took possession of the ball. Unfortunately Eastern kept answering South Webster’s scores with scores of their own, preventing the Jeeps from getting a run in their favor.
This continued throughout the third, until the Eagles had taken a 13-point lead, 49-36, at the end of the period.
Fenton would earn a technical in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Despite Eastern hitting both free throws and getting possession of the ball, the Jeeps did fight back after the foul, but were ultimately unable to overcome the deficit.
In the end, the Eagles defeated the Jeeps, 71-53, to claim a sectional championship, and move on to the district round at the Convo.
South Webster will lose one senior, Nathan Hadinger.
“We’re very proud of Nate,” Fenton said. “Nate has taken a very big responsibility for us, in terms of always guarding the best, or the big kid of the other team. He’s probably 6-foot-1-inch, and he’s guarding kids much bigger. I’m just proud of him for always giving everything he has, and ending his career the same way he started it, and that’s just pure effort, pure hustle, everything he has.
“I’m just proud of him and I’m really hoping here in the next few years that I’m even more proud of the young man he becomes other than the basketball player he was for me.”
Eastern – Ethan Leist 6-7-19, Hale 7-0-14, Martin 5-1-14, Evan Leist 2-3-7, Hesson 2-1-5, Alley 0-4-4, Gambill 2-0-4, Hodge 1-0-2, Miller 1-0-2
South Webster – S. Blevins 6-3-17, Zimmerman 4-2-11, Bennington 3-3-10, A. Blevins 3-0-6, Shonkwiler 2-0-4, Coriell 1-0-2, Witter 1-0-2, Hadinger 0-1-1
Three-point field goals – Eastern 3 (Martin 3) South Webster 4 (Blevins 2, Zimmerman, Bennington)
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.