MCDERMOTT — Before the season, Adam Cox said that the 2017-18 New Boston Tigers’ boys basketball program would be at the Convo.
And while Cox may not be truly able to tell the future, his prediction that was made over three months ago came true to form in one beautiful display of basketball — and allowed the Village of New Boston to experience something that hadn’t been seen in 18 years.
With the Tigers trailing by a 43-32 count early in the third quarter of action, the New Boston Tigers’ boys basketball program used two huge triples by Kyle McQuithy to fight the deficit back to a single-digit margin. Kyle Sexton and Tyler Caldwell then took over the reigns from there.
Caldwell, who scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half, and Sexton, who obtained 17 of his 19 tallies in the final two stanzas of play, proceeded to dominate the second half as the duo scored 31 of New Boston’s 48 second-half points behind their slick play inside. Six huge points by Alex Meade, along with a double-double from Kade Conley and gritty play from Drake Truitt, allowed New Boston to turn the double-digit deficit into a runaway victory as the Tigers ended up winning going away, 80-66, over the Leesburg-Fairfield Lions’ boys basketball program on Wednesday evening in a Division IV Sectional Final that was held at Northwest High School in McDermott.
For Cox, the ability to lead New Boston to a promise land that the Tigers hadn’t reached in 18 years was certainly exhausting, and overwhelming, all in one.
“At halftime, Kyle manned up and he said, ‘Guys, I’m so sorry for the way that I played in the first half,’” Cox said. “He took it personally with how he played in the first half. He missed some easy shots that are uncharacteristic of the way that he normally plays.
Caldwell 22 points “affected a lot of shots in the paint”
Conley 18 points, 11 assists
“We’re so ecstatic,” Cox said. “We dug deep and made a big halftime adjustment. We wanted to show them some stuff that they hadn’t seen before, and we ended up just going man-to-man. We felt like we were athletic enough to guard them, get out in them, and really pressure them, and we were able to do that.”
“We’re so ecstatic,” Cox said. “We dug deep and made a big halftime adjustment. We wanted to show them some stuff that they hadn’t seen before, and we ended up just going man-to-man. We felt like we were athletic enough to guard them, get out in them, and really pressure them, and we were able to do that. It’s been an emotional week. The lows of the flood and kids not being able to get to school because of it, to the highs of this win, is unreal. I couldn’t be happier. Alex Meade came off of the bench and gave us big minutes, and Kyle McQuithy hit some big threes, as well, so we ended up having four players in double-figures. It was a great team effort. I couldn’t be more proud of the guys.
From the opening quarter of action forward, the contest — which was dubbed by most as one with track meet potential — played out to exactly that. Both units, as a matter of fact, battled to five lead changes and five ties — with the highlight of the quarter for the Tigers being a 4-0 spurt that was punctuated by a straight-line drive and hammer by Caldwell, which gave New Boston an early 8-4 advantage before Fairfield battled back to even the score at 15 apiece.
The second quarter, however, proved to be more of a struggle for New Boston.
As shots on the left and right blocks kept falling in and out of the rim, the Tigers — who obtained a pair of big treys from Caldwell and Conley to take a 22-19 advantage on the first triple and tie the score at 25 on the second trey — began to fall behind. Two quick fouls by Truitt relegated the senior to the bench, and Fairfield made an 8-0 run to ultimately obtain a 33-25 advantage.
Then, when New Boston used another critical trey from Caldwell, as well as a layup from Conley inside, the Tigers seemingly had the gap closed to a four-point margin as the halftime break approached. However, a foul away from the basket on a three-point attempt with seven-tenths of a second left allowed the Lions to open up a huge seven-point halftime lead. In all, that play, along with 11 first-half points from the Lions’ Cody Gragg, allowed Leesburg-Fairfield to obtain a 39-32 halftime lead.
However, to New Boston’s credit, the Tigers regrouped and took on the positive approach that their first-year leader had during the halftime break.
“They had the momentum at half, but we liked it because in tournament play, the team that always has the lead tries not to lose it, and they stop going to what they were doing because they don’t feel like they need to take those chances in pressure, so we really turned up the defensive pressure,” Cox said. “(Cory) Allison, (Roger) Hall, (Jason) Carter, and (Anthony) Maynard were all there for me at halftime telling the guys how much we needed to pressure and change up our strategy, and we just went man-to-man and were able to guard them. We showed that we were a little bit quicker and a little bit deeper than them.”
Why? Because when New Boston went man-to-man over the final 1:13 of the half, the Tigers shut the Lions out from the field. The difference in the contest being two possessions to three possessions, as a matter of fact, was just those three free throws at the end of the half.
“With 1:13 to go, we went man-to-man in the second quarter, and felt really good with it,” Cox said. “Without the foul, we went on a 4-0 run in man-to-man, so we felt that if we came out in that and got our pressure up, we had a really good chance of cutting into that lead. We felt that if we could get the lead down from seven to even or within three or four, we could pull away in the fourth quarter, and we were able to do that.”
Knowing that the positive mindset was exactly what New Boston needed at that point in time, the Tigers, following a 5-0 run by Fairfield to start the second half, came out firing. McQuithy, who found himself open on the right side not once, but twice, wasted no time by canning both opportunities. Then, when Sexton got space to operate on the left side of the floor, the freshman canned an open trey right in front of the New Boston bench to cut the lead to 46-41.
However, the 6-5 dynamite athlete was just getting started. After Caldwell fought his way inside for a basket, Sexton drew contact on the left side of the floor en route to obtaining a pair of free throws, which was followed by a free throw line jumper from Conley that was canned following a timeout. Sexton then completely took over matters to end the quarter as the freshman threw a nifty pass to a streaking Meade on the right block, then battled inside and used his growing low-post positioning skills to obtain two additional hard-fought baskets as the Tigers finished the quarter with a 53-48 lead off of the game-changing 21-5 push.
“At halftime, Kyle Sexton manned up and he said, ‘Guys, I’m so sorry for the way that I played in the first half,’” Cox said. “He took it personally with how he played in the first half. He missed some easy shots that are uncharacteristic of the way that he normally plays. As for Kyle, we count on him to hit threes, and he did tonight. When he hit those two big threes (in the third quarter), it really swung momentum into our favor. Those deep daggers drew us to within four, and from there, we just kept getting some breaks and started rebounding the basketball better.”
Behind strong play inside from sophomore James Bentley, Fairfield was able to cut the lead down to four, 55-51, as the Lions’ big man got on the pogo sticks and obtained three free throws by relentlessly attacking the glass.
However, Sexton, as if he was angry about the sequence at the beginning of the quarter, did not let his team give into the pressure. The freshman forward ultimately obtained eight of his 19 points during a game-deciding 12-0 push that gave New Boston a double-digit advantage for good, while Caldwell, a promising junior who arguably played his best basketball of the season in the second half, hit six big free throws, put together a strong finish on the right side through contact while fading away from the rim, and punctuated the affair with a second dunk with 1:03 to play to cap off the biggest victory of the 21st century, and one of the biggest ever, for the Tigers.
“It was a team effort,” Cox said. “We couldn’t have done it without everybody that contributed. It’s a dream come true. We made a lifetime memory tonight.”
With the victory, New Boston and South Webster will clash in a neat experience that will certainly draw a big crowd. Not only will Scioto County, once again, have at least one team in a district final, it will also have a first year high school basketball head coach — either Cox or South Webster’s Brenton Cole — coaching in it. To make matters even more interesting, Sunday’s Division IV District Semifinal puts Cox up against the very school that his daughters — including Baylee, a sophomore in the South Webster girls basketball program — go to.
“I coached Shane Zimmerman in AAU, and I coached Shiloah (Blevins), Devyn Coriell, and much of those kids in junior high soccer, so it’s going to be an emotional game,” Cox said. “I’ve been a South Webster Jeep for the last 15 years, and my kids play at South Webster. It’s going to be an emotional game. I know every one of their kids, they know me, and I love them. Win or lose, it’s going to be good to see a Scioto County team represent us in the district finals.”
But make no mistake about it: when the ball is tipped on Sunday, Cox — who goes to South Webster games when he’s not coaching or watching a New Boston team play — will be all Red and White on Sunday, not Red and Black.
“We believe that we have a chance to make a deeper run than just the Convo,” Cox said. “We beat South Webster before during the regular season, and we know that they didn’t have Shiloah, but we’re going to be up to the test and they’re going to be up to the test. It’s going to be a good game. We’ve got to put our kids in the positions to be able to win again, and I believe that we can do that.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT