When sectional seeding is on the line, it’s always important to make a strong statement when the official marks come out before regular season play ends.
On Tuesday evening, the New Boston Tigers’ boys basketball program made its strongest case yet for a tournament seed at the No. 3 slot or higher with its performance, as the Tigers overcame a 30-22 deficit with a spirited 20-4 fourth-quarter run en route to obtaining a critical 42-34 victory over the Ironton St. Joseph Flyers’ boys basketball program in a nonconference meeting between the two programs in New Boston.
For Adam Cox, the winning effort came on the back of the Tigers’ defense, who closed out the affair by holding Ironton St. Joseph to just four points over the game’s final 11 minutes of action.
“We really played a great defensive game; our best of the season,” Cox said. “We knew that we had to. The kids really stepped up, man, and I couldn’t be more proud of the guys.”
Initially, however, the Flyers, as they have consistently done throughout the season, gave New Boston headaches with their timely and well-balanced scoring attack. Joey McDavid, who will likely be an All-Southeast District and All-State honoree at the end of the year, scored 10 of Ironton St. Joseph’s 18 points to put the Flyers ahead by an 18-12 tally at halftime.
“Ironton St. Joseph is a very well-coached team,” Cox said. “They’re very disciplined on the offensive end. We really worked to just dig deep, and we played well defensively as a result. They’re very well-balanced,” Cox said. “That’s what scares me about them.”
But as adversity hit, New Boston found a way to answer back behind the tremendous play of Kyle Sexton, who arguably had the best all-around performance of his young career against Ironton St. Joseph on Monday evening. The freshman forward, who had four blocks in the game’s first five possessions, ultimately finished an astounding 11 blocks in addition to 13 points and 13 rebounds on the evening.
“Kyle got a triple-double, and he got that by the way that he played on the defensive end, which is what we called on him to do tonight,” Cox said. “He not only plays with the heart and dedication of an upperclassmen, but also accepts the challenges as far as guarding the opposing team’s best player is concerned. Sometimes, I have to talk him out of wanting to guard the other team’s best player just to keep him from getting in foul trouble or from getting tired down the stretch of a game. He’s never backed down from one challenge this year, and really he took over the game with some and-ones in the second half and some timely, clutch free throw shooting down the stretch.”
While Ironton St. Joseph not only held, but extended, its lead by the end of the third quarter of action — 30-22 — behind the play of Zach Roach, who had five points in the frame, a knee injury to Roach forced the guard, who accumulated seven points on the evening, to exit the affair. When Roach exited, assistant coach Corey Allison spearheaded a charge to run a full-court press, with Cox ultimately agreeing that the setup was the best option.
“Hat’s off to Corey Allison, Roger Hall, and Jason Carter,” Cox said. “They were able to reel me in and get my head focused on a couple of different situations that happened during the game. They made some great strategy adjustments and recommendations at halftime and at the end of the third quarter. We made some adjustments, started to pressure the basketball a little bit more up the floor, and started to extend our man-to-man into a run-and-jump, then a little bit of a press,” Cox said. “We were able to get them out of their rhythm.”
In the final quarter of play, the floodgates opened up for the Tigers as New Boston — behind stellar defensive efforts from Sexton, Tyler Caldwell, and Kyle McQuithy and the steady play of Malachi Potts and Kade Conley — didn’t allow McDavid to score a single point in the second half and used its full-court pressure to get easy baskets out in transition.
“Tyler did an excellent job on the defensive end,” Cox said. “Kyle McQuithy played his best defensive game of the season, and Malachi put together some big minutes for us tonight. He really played well as a primary and a secondary ballhandler, and that really took the pressure off of Kade. That really created a rhythm for us offensively. I was really pleased with him.”
McQuithy, who teamed with Conley to score nine points apiece while also adding eight rebounds on his own, continued to impress Cox with his improved mindset and all-around game.
“Ever since (the opening couple of minutes of the East game), his level of play, demeanor, and body language has been all about doing what he can to win,” Cox said. “That’s big for him because he’s used to scoring. He’s used to shooting, seeing those three-point shots going in, and scoring on any team that he wanted to in his junior year. He averaged a good 12 to 13 points per game last year. While his scoring has dropped off this year, Kyle has become a better player in every other aspect of the game. That makes him more well-rounded and a better team player. That’s what we need out of him.”
Caldwell added eight points and Drake Truitt obtained three tallies for New Boston, who improved to 10-3 overall with the victory. Ironton St. Joseph fell to 11-3 with the loss.
New Boston will return to SOC I action when it hosts Clay on Friday evening as part of its Homecoming festivities, while Ironton St. Joseph will be back in action on back-to-back days beginning the following Monday, when the Flyers host East. Ohio Valley Christian comes to Ironton on Tuesday evening.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT