ATHENS – What a difference a full season of games can make. That may seem cliché or obvious, but it’s the truth in the case of the New Boston Tigers. On December 1st, the second night of a back to back, the Tigers travelled to South Webster and fell 63-61, largely due to missed free throws down the stretch.
In their rematch Sunday afternoon in the Division IV district semifinals at the Convocation Center in Athens, the Tigers made sure that wouldn’t be the case again.
From the time sophomore Kyle Sexton stepped to the free throw line with 2:14 left in the fourth quarter, the Tigers closed the game 8/8 from the foul line, helping submit their 63-60 win over South Webster, New Boston’s first ever win at the Convo and first district semifinal win since 1985.
“I’m super proud of the underclassmen,” said New Boston senior Tyler Caldwell. “Grady Jackson hit the two biggest free throws of his life, Kyle (Sexton) goes 6/6. That’s a freshman and sophomore stepping up at the Convo, not being scared to take the free throws.”
The Tigers didn’t just make free throws, they excelled at them to the tune of a 16/18 performance from the charity stripe. For comparison’s sake, South Webster shot just 3/4 from the line.
“It was a great feeling,” said sophomore Kyle Sexton. “When we played at their place, I was 1/5 from the line and Shiloah (Blevins) comes down and hits the jumper to give them one point lead. So it was great to go 6/6 from the line.”
Speaking of Blevins, the talented Jeeps senior scored 12 points in the first half to lead his team at the intermission. In the halftime locker room, Tigers’ head coach Adam Cox challenged his team to step up defensively and shut down South Webster’s biggest threat.
“We came in at halftime down,” said Cox. “Kyle only had two points, Shiloah was kind of having his way offensively. We challenged him and he stepped up. Something that last year’s freshman Kyle Sexton wouldn’t have done.”
When both teams came out for the second half, Blevins wouldn’t score again for the remainder of the game. Tanner Voiers finished with a team high 15 points to lead the Jeeps, followed closely by Andrew Smith who scored 14, twelve of which came from behind the arc.
New Boston was led in scoring by junior Marcus Saunders who scored a game high 17 points off the bench, Caldwell who finished with 15, Sexton who finished with 13, and McKinley who finished with 12, meaning that in total, four Tigers broke double figures in their district semifinal win.
“We thought about switching the starting lineup,” said Cox. “We decided to give Marcus the shot off the bench. Our last eight games, he’s averaging 16.4 points per game, all of which came off the bench. So we decided to keep him there, and we forced them to make adjustments and switch their lineups around because of our speed from our guards.”
Following their district semifinal win, New Boston will face the Trimble Tomcats Thursday night at 6:15 at the Convo in their first district title game appearance since 1985. If they defeat Trimble, they’ll claim their first district title since 1960, a chance 59 years in the making for Tiger fans.
“We’re going to study them inside and out,” said Sexton, “Come back up here on Thursday and try to win our first district title since 1960.”
NB: 23-10-13-17 – 63
SW: 20-17-9-14 – 60
NB: 21 FG, 5 3PT (Caldwell 3), 16/18 FT. Scoring: Saunders 17, Caldwell 15, Sexton 13, McKinley 12, Jackson 6
SW: 25 FG, 7 3PT (Smith 4), 3/4 FT. Scoring: Voiers 15, Smith 14, Blevins 12, Zimmerman 9, Bockway 7, Ruth 3
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT