ATHENS — Playing with energy and urgency in must-win situations will always lead to the best results possible for a unit.
The South Webster Jeeps did that in spades in a Division IV, Athens I District Semifinal on Tuesday evening, and, surprise surprise — the talented unit came out with another gritty W.
The Blevins brothers — Alek and Shiloah — did their fair share of damage in combining for 32 points, and two crucial treys by Shane Zimmerman halted two separate Trimble Tomcat runs as South Webster advanced to Saturday’s Division IV, Athens I District Final with a 57-47 victory over Trimble at the Convocation Center to continue their postseason run.
For Ryan Fenton, the effort displayed from his unit was exactly what he wanted to see in a win-or-go-home affair.
“I’m very proud of the guys,” Fenton said. “Energy-wise, it was an excellent showing. We were a little rattled to begin the contest, but for some of these kids, it’s the first time that they’ve ever been to the Convo. After that initial start, I was really proud of the guys collecting themselves and doing what it takes to win.”
While the Blevins brothers’ efforts jumped off of the page throughout the course of the evening, it was the play of Jacob Ruth that helped South Webster take control at first. The sophomore guard scored the Jeeps’ first five points of the affair by using an end-to-end rack attack and an and-one putback to give South Webster an early 5-2 advantage.
“That’s the quickest start to a game that Jacob’s had all year,” Fenton said. “It was good for him, as a sophomore, to settle in and take control. He did a good job of handling pressure and had a heck of a game for us.”
Then, the younger Blevins got rolling.
Behind a putback on the block, along with a straightaway three out at the top of the arc, the 6-5 sophomore was able to begin an 11-point first-half tear — all while staying within the confines of the offense and letting the game come to him. His brilliant performance included seven tallies during a crucial 12-2 first-half tear that allowed South Webster to take a 19-8 first-half advantage, and eventually, a 21-14 halftime lead.
“Shiloah had a great game tonight,” Fenton said. “I called that coming in. I have told people all week, if we can get him motivated, Shiloah is going to have a big night.”
And with a game-high 17 points, the sophomore proved his head coach right.
However, his older brother, Alek, wasn’t about to be outdone.
Following a basket by the younger Blevins to start the third quarter of play, the elder Blevins followed with three huge triples en route to an 11-point third quarter, including an off-balance triple that the senior calmly canned at the third-quarter horn, to allow South Webster to cap off the third quarter with an 8-2 run and take a 41-26 advantage at the end of the frame.
“I really think that Shiloah fed off of Alek’s energy,” Fenton said. “Alek had another phenomenal game for us, both offensively and defensively. He led the show, he hit big shots, and he played with excellent discipline on the defensive end. We kind of go as he goes, and we understand that he is a heck of a player, so we have to follow his lead. He’s one of the best athletes around, and one of the best I’ve ever seen at South Webster. He just does so much for every team that he’s on, and that’s primarily due to the kind of kid and kind of leader that he is. We’re very thankful that he gets to enjoy this success.”
But while the Blevins brothers kept coming with each of the Jeeps’ first six points in the fourth quarter, Trimble came back with a massive spurt of its own.
Behind the play of Max Hooper and Tyler Slack — who combined for 13 fourth-quarter points to help the Tomcats close the gap — Trimble went on an 8-0 run in less than 1:15 of playing time to cut a 47-32 South Webster advantage down to 47-40 with a shade over 3:30 to play.
However, Blevins and Zimmerman — the team’s senior strongholds — stepped up again when the Jeeps needed it most.
After scrambling to break the intense defensive pressure that Trimble applied in the backcourt, Zimmerman found room in the left corner and nailed a triple to halt the 8-0 spurt. Blevins then put the finishing touches on the affair by connecting on a driving layup off of the right block and grabbing two critical rebounds off of missed free throws, which helped push the South Webster margin back to double-digits for good.
With the victory, South Webster will face Clay in an All-Scioto County district final on Saturday at 12 p.m. While the No. 1-seeded Panthers bested the No. 6-seeded Jeeps, 45-38, in the regular season, there is play of optimism in the Jeeps’ camp.
“Clay’s a very good team with a lot of talent,” Fenton said. “They know what we do, and we know what they do, so it’s going to be an all-out battle. We don’t have much time to prepare, but we’ve just got to make sure that we rest the kids, get their minds right, and come in Saturday expecting a battle.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7