ATHENS — The Green Bobcats (20-5) found themselves a home in Athens on Thursday — defeating previously unbeaten Fairfield (24-1) 43-38 inside the Convocation Center to win the program’s first district championship since the 1996-97 season.
It’s the sixth district title in program history for Green, the others coming in 1997, 1987, 1985, 1963, and 1939.
This season has been one full of firsts for the Bobcat basketball program, including winning an outright Southern Ohio Conference Division I championship for the first time since 2011 — and now a district championship — in head coach J.D. King’s first season at the helm.
Green defeats Fairfield 43-38 in the Division IV, Southeast No. 2 district championship to win the program’s first district title since 1997.
Bobcats are headed to the Region 15 semifinals. #PDTSports pic.twitter.com/ZLXftjRJ1D
— Jacob Smith (@JacobSmithPDT) March 3, 2023
“I’m a history teacher and a basketball coach, you combine those things and it’s right up my alley. The history of our league, this program — I told them they’ve just done something a handful of teams in this school’s history has done,” King said. “It’s something that’s going to mean something for the rest of their lives and that makes me very happy.”
Green seniors Gabe McBee and Levi Sampson — who combined to score 25 points in the district title tilt — discussed how King’s guidance has helped steer their season into the historic one it has become.
“I love him to death, he’s such a great coach,” Sampson said. “He puts so much time into this and it pays off.”
“He’s a great coach, great guy. He’s been here before so this is nothing new to him,” McBee said. “He got us in the right spots, led us all the way.”
Gabe McBee led the Bobcats with a game-high 14 points in the district title tilt, followed by Levi Sampson’s 11.
Green’s five-point victory on Thursday was the true definition of a “team win”. When they needed a shot to fall or a play to be made, a Bobcat stepped up to fill the void.
Fairfield took a 31-27 lead early in the fourth quarter after both teams battled to a 25-25 deadlock through the first three periods.
From that point on, the Bobcats outscored the Lions 16-7 while knocking down some of the biggest shots in their program’s recent history.
Highlights from Green’s 43-38 win in the Division IV, Southeast No. 2 district championship. #PDTSports pic.twitter.com/cTz2VfiEo7
— Jacob Smith (@JacobSmithPDT) March 3, 2023
Senior Levi Waddell sank a three pointer that cut the Green deficit to one at 31-30 with 6:20 remaining in regulation, then Gabe McBee got a three to fall that gave them a 33-31 edge with 5:26 left.
Senior Levi Blevins added eight points for Green, all of which came in the second half.
His two third quarter three pointers gave the Bobcats their largest lead of the game at 23-15 with 4:45 left in that quarter.
Sampson and junior Abe McBee went four-of-six at the free throw line in the closing minutes to officially put the game on ice. As a team, Green was 8-of-11 at the foul line.
“I can’t hide my smile at that. As coaches, you talk about the value of team and getting everyone involved. We’ve got guys that have really bought into their roles and we don’t win this game if we don’t get contributions from everyone,” King said. “Levi Waddell and Levi Blevins hit some huge threes that we needed because of how far they were sinking to guard Levi Sampson, and that’s why I think he was able to get loose in the fourth because they had to come out and guard.”
The Bobcats were in a position to win late thanks to their ability to set the tone on the offensive end in the first half and throughout the game.
At halftime, Green took a 17-12 lead into the locker room as they held the Lions to just five made shots from the field.
Fairfield was ultimately led by Gunner Bennington’s team-high 12 points. He was the lone scorer to reach double-figures for the Lions.
“I thought we did a great job defensively in the first half, lost the lead in the third quarter. But our kids showed their toughness, resiliency and grit,” King said. “In the fourth quarter we found ways to make plays and we were smart decision makers late.”
Green will face the winner of the Central No. 2 district final between Westerville Northside Christian and Newark Catholic in the Region 15 semifinals back at the Convo on Tuesday, March 7th at 6:00 p.m.
“I can’t thank our school and community enough, the support our fans and families have given us,” King said. “It’s a dream come true to have this success and this stage. And I told these guys, it’s nice to win at the Convo, it’s really nice to win and get to come back. So we’re looking forward to it.”
Green 11 6 8 18 — 43
Fairfield 4 8 13 13 — 38
Green (20-5): Levi Blevins 3 0-0 8, Levi Sampson 4 3-3 11, Jon Knapp 0 1-2 1, Abe McBee 2 2-4 6, Levi Waddell 1 0-0 3, Gabe McBee 5 2-2 14; TOTALS: 15 8-11 43; Three-point field goals: 5 (Levi Blevins, Gabe McBee 2 apiece, Levi Waddell 1)
Fairfield (24-1): Larkin Friend 4 1-2 9, Trey House 1 0-0 3, Wyatt Collins 2 3-3 8, Gabe Fouch 0 0-0 0, TJ Mootz 2 2-2 6, Gunner Bennington 5 0-0 12, Cade Miller 0 0-0 0; TOTALS: 14 6-7 38; Three-point field goals: 4 (Gunner Bennington 2, Trey House, Wyatt Collins 1 apiece)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved