ATHENS – The New Boston Tigers are district champions. That sentence had not been written for the last fifty-nine years, until now.
After the Tigers made a second half comeback to defeat Glouster Trimble 64-53 in the Division IV district finals at the Convocation Center in Athens Thursday night, Tigers head coach Adam Cox could not been more proud of his team for achieving something unseen at New Boston for nearly six decades.
And deservedly so.
“It feels good,” said Cox following the Tigers first district title since 1960. “It feels really good to be in this position. I’ve got to thank our community, the village of New Boston, our teachers, our staff, and our administration. It’s been amazing what they’ve been able to do for our kids and how much they’ve stepped up. Some of these kids, first time ever experiencing anything like that, and I think we’re responding pretty well.”
Thursday’s district final between New Boston and Trimble was interesting in the aspect that the Tigers actually trailed for much of the first half, including starting off down 6-0 before Kyle Sexton’s first three of the game cut the Tomcat lead in half at 6-3, as well as down 26-19 in the final minutes of the first half.
Yet, despite trailing at two different points in the first half by two and three possessions in a high pressure situation, this group of Tigers never wavered.
After a first half where sophomore Kyle Sexton scored 15 of the Tigers 26 first half points while not even hitting a field goal in the second quarter, changes needed to be made.
To the New Boston coaching staff and the player’s credit, they were made to perfection.
“I called a timeout after we hit a three to cut it to four,” Cox said. “We were in foul trouble, (Tyler) Caldwell and Sexton both. We went in and challenged them. If you would have seen the message Malachi Potts delivered to senior Tyler Caldwell, you would have understood why Malachi is our team captain. He might not have scored a point tonight, but what he did in this locker room tonight goes unseen.”
After Potts’ issued his challenge during the intermission, Caldwell stepped up with 10 of his 12 points coming in the second half.
During the first half when Sexton and Caldwell were in their fall trouble, as Cox mentioned, it was Kyle Mays who came in and gave the Tigers the minutes they needed to help fill the void they ever so needed.
“Kyle Mays played a heck-of-a game off the bench, allowed us to go seven deep,” Cox said. “He gave us more valuable minutes tonight than he ever has, and he didn’t score a point. The minutes he gave tonight, we were able to plug in for Sexton and Caldwell in foul trouble, that probably won the game for us. He doesn’t realize that, but people who know sports and know about the game realize those are huge minutes.”
While Potts, Cox and his coaching staff challenged the Tigers to be resilient in the face of adversity, they also made gameplan changes, the likes of which they hadn’t practiced or used in games all season long, until tonight.
The result of which was holding Trimble to just 23 points in the final 16 minutes of play en route to New Boston’s first district title win in 59 years.
“We made a big adjustment at halftime. I asked the kids if we could guard in man, and of course they were all about it, but I knew we were in foul trouble. So I went to the dry-erase board and drew up a triangle and two, Marcus (Saunders) face-guarding and Jerome (McKinley) you’re the chaser, Grady (Jackson) up top and Sexton and Caldwell on each block. Once we got four or five stops in a row, our kids started believing in themselves and we really disrupted what they were trying to do offensively.”
After scoring 15 points in the first half to lead all scorers, Kyle Sexton finished with a team high 20 points. Marcus Saunders finished with an incredibly important 10 points off the bench, while freshmen Jerome McKinley and Grady Jackson combined to score 22 points.
Nearly all five players who scored for New Boston nearly hit double figures, a testament to their balance and efficiency in all areas of the game.
Leading Trimble in scoring was freshman Blake Guffey, a player who will be a name to watch in the Southeast district for years to come, who finished with a game high 26 points.
The next challenge awaiting the New Boston Tigers after their first district title in nearly six decades?
A date in the regional semifinals with either Berne Union or Fisher Catholic, representatives from the Columbus district next Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. right back at the Convo, a place New Boston fans have come accustomed to travelling to this postseason.
“No matter what happens, everything resets,” said Cox. “The game plan resets, your mind resets that game’s over, whatever you did good or bad resets. You’ve got to come back out ready to play again the next time you take the floor. We won’t know who we play till Saturday, Berne Union and Fisher Catholic play Saturday at 1 p.m. So we’ll be able to go up and see a little bit of them and scout them.”
NB: 13-13-18-20 – 64
Trimble: 16-14-11-12 – 53
NB: 24 FG, 5 3PT (Sexton 3), 11/17 FT. Scoring: Sexton 20, McKinley 14, Caldwell 12, Saunders 10, Jackson 8
Trimble: 19 FG, 5 3PT (Weber, Kennedy 2), 10/15 FT. Scoring: Guffey 26, Weber 10, Kittle 8, Brown 5, Koons 4