WAVERLY — For the Minford Falcons, as part of a Southeast District Division III two-step, the year 1995 is now half-history at least.
That’s because the top-seeded Falcons, thanks to Tuesday’s 77-52 runaway win over the ninth-seeded Lynchburg-Clay Mustangs in a semifinal at Waverly’s historic Downtown Arena, captured their first district tournament triumph in exactly 28 years.
Final score @MinfordHoops 77, Lynchburg-Clay 52 as Minford raises record to 22-1 and wins first district semifinal game since 1995. Falcons never trailed and close as Mustangs got was 6-6 tie after Falcons 6-0 lead. More to come in a bit.
— @PaulBoggsSports (@paulboggssports) March 1, 2023
That’s correct, almost three full decades of district defeatism officially ended for the tall, talented, highly-touted and high-flying Falcons —which were last district champions in back-to-back seasons of 1994 and 1995.
Since then, Minford had won nine sectional championships (1996, 1998, 2006, 2007, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2022) including last season as the Southeast District’s Division III top seed, but in each instance —the Falcons fell short in the semifinals.
But as veteran Minford coach Josh Shoemaker said, this Falcon flock is much different — and special.
Of course, all of the current 22-1 Falcons were over a decade away from being born —when Minford last played in a district final.
“We settled down, started to guard, played defense second and third quarters and rebounded well, pushed in transition, and did what we’ve done all year. The kids did a great job and got a victory,” said Shoemaker. “The good thing is for them, it’s on to the next one. It means a lot to our coaching staff, but I think our kids are not worried about our history. They are worried about right now and going as far as they can.”
On Tuesday, Minford never trailed, although there were some first-quarter jitters —just a 15-14 edge after the opening canto, which included a 6-6 tie.
“Lot of nerves coming into the game,” said Shoemaker. “I think you saw first quarter we were pretty nervous.”
The Falcons found, though, another gear or two from there, erupting for an 18-5 advantage over the Mustangs in the second quarter — followed promptly by a 27-9 running roughshod on Lynchburg-Clay in the third.
While the Mustangs (15-10) sported five seniors with experience, they were no match in terms of talent, length, height, athleticism and speed —their tallest player standing six-feet and two-inches tall.
“We also used our conditioning too,” added Shoemaker. “I felt we did a good job and they got a little tired. Myles (Montgomery) has a high motor, and the other guys just jump on and go with him.”
Minford’s flavor took over after the first quarter, as it eventually opened up a pair of 33-point leads (59-26 and 60-27) by the end of the third —and almost put the contest into Ohio High School Athletic Association running-clock mode.
It never reached that point, as the Mustangs outscored mostly Falcon reserves 24-17 for the final quarter —as L-C senior Ian Waits banked in a three-pointer with 93 seconds remaining, giving him exactly 1,000 for his Mustang career.
Waits was the game-high scorer with 24 points, which included all four of Lynchburg-Clay’s three-point goals —and part of his nine hoops total.
But, only Logan Shope (10 points on four field goals and 2-of-3 free throws) scored also in double figures for the Mustangs —as Minford limited Lynchburg-Clay to only 20-percent shooting from beyond three-point arc (4-of-20).
The taller Falcons also dominated in rebounding 32-18 — including 10 by 6-5 sophomore Bennett Kayser, seven from 6-7 senior Joe Hannah, and six by 6-4 sophomore Jackson Shoemaker.
Minford junior Bennett Kayser (1) puts up a shot around three Lynchburg-Clay defenders during Tuesday’s Division III Southeast District boys basketball semifinal game at Waverly’s Downtown Arena.
Courtesy of Patrick Phillips of Glory Days Photography
Minford’s defense dialed up in the second stanza —as the Mustangs’ only points were Waits’ first three which cut the Falcons’ lead to 22-17, and a pair of free throws from Denver Clinton which made it 26-19.
In fact, the Mustangs scored just seven points over the final 10:45 of the first half —and never led for the final 28 minutes and 12 seconds.
Minford shot for 51-percent on 25-of-49, including for a fiery 55-percent on 17-of-31 from inside the arc.
The Falcons’ first nine points all came courtesy of three-pointers —a pair by Myles Montgomery sandwiched around a corner-pocket job by senior Adam Crank.
Montgomery, the Southeast District Division III co-Player of the Year as bestowed by the Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association, poured in a team-high 23 points —on two twos, four threes, and 7-of-8 free throws over the final three quarters.
He went off for 18 in the first half, including a dozen for the second period —with his final four field goals and 2-of-2 freebies.
The third quarter belonged to Kayser, who erupted for 16 of his 22 points — including his only three-pointer plus his 3-of-4 foul shots.
The remainder of his nine baskets were all from two-point territory.
Coach Shoemaker said his Falcons found ways to get Montgomery first and Kayser second going.
“We knew that their zone was going to give us some problems, but we did a good job of screening for Myles early on to get him some shots. Then as they started extended their zone, Bennett (Kayser) was able to open up that middle and guys fed him the ball. In that third quarter, he got his shot going,” he said. “That’s just where we’ve been the past month. Myles and Bennett both filling it up.”
So too, to a degree, was Crank with 11 points —with a three-pointer in each stanza sans the second.
“Adam Crank will score when he has shots, but he will also play defense. He takes what comes to him because he is a complete and unselfish player. We’re not as good as we are without Adam Crank,” said Shoemaker. “Tonight just showed he will step up and hit big shots for us.”
Hannah had three twos for six, and Jackson Shoemaker scored four on a basket and 2-of-2 tosses.
Minford freshman Nick Gilliland (14) goes in for a late layup during the Falcons’ Division III Southeast District boys basketball semifinal game against Lynchburg-Clay.
Ed Litteral | Daily Times
All but one Falcon listed in the scorebook played, and only two did not score.
And, only Huntington High from West Virginia —as part of the Ironton Classic three days before Christmas —remains the Falcons’ lone loss.
For Sunday’s Division III district championship tilt, inside Ohio University’s Convocation Center in Athens, they get another team in Green —the 20-4 and fourth-seeded Green Devils of North Adams.
North Adams, which lost at Minford 58-43 in a non-league regular-season meeting two months ago, defeated Valley 60-48 in Tuesday’s other semifinal at Waverly.
For the Falcons, they are soaring to some new heights — at least to The Convo’s wider floor, and for the first time since 1995.
“For our guys, first time playing there at The Convo. A lot of young guys and everything else,” said the coach. “But we’re looking forward to Sunday.”
* * *
Lynchburg-Clay 14 5 9 24 — 52
Minford 15 18 27 17 —77
LYNCHBURG-CLAY 52 (15-10)
Landon West 0 0-0 0, Ian Waits 9 2-2 24, Denver Clinton 2 2-2 6, J.J. Massey 0 0-0 0, Cody Bell 0 0-0 0, Jay Cordrey 0 0-0 0, Austin Bell 1 0-0 2, Branden West 0 0-0 0, Logan Shope 4 2-3 10, Bryce Binkley 1 1-2 3, Brady Chisman 2 3-3 7; TOTALS 19 10-12 52; Three-point field goals: 4 (Ian Waits 4)
MINFORD 77 (22-1)
Bennett Kayser 9 3-4 22, Peyton Caudill 0 3-4 3, Kade Glockner 1 1-2 3, Adam Crank 3 2-4 11, Myles Montgomery 6 7-8 23, Jeffrey Pica 0 1-6 1, Nick Gilliland 0 0-0 0, Gavin Downey 0 0-2 0, Bailey White 0 2-2 2, Noah Martin 1 0-2 2, Jackson Shoemaker 1 2-2 4, Joe Hannah 3 0-0 6; TOTALS 24 21-34 77; Three-point field goals: 8 (Myles Montgomery 4, Adam Crank 3, Bennett Kayser 1)