ATHENS – In a game full of twists and turns from start to finish, the New Boston Tigers found a way to win.
Maybe finding a way to win is phrasing it wrong. The Tigers, as they’ve done all postseason long, willed their way and made winning play after winning play to defeat Berne Union (19-8) 69-64 in their Division IV regional semifinals matchup in Athens at the Convocation Center Tuesday night.
“For me, it feels great,” said New Boston senior Tyler Caldwell who finished with a game high 18 points. “Last year, we fell short. Our goal this year was to play in a district final game, and now we’re in the regional finals which has exceeded expectations. As a senior this year, it feels awesome that this is how I’m going out.”
Tyler Caldwell. You could write a book on his senior season alone. In what started as missing three consecutive untimely free throws which ultimately cost the Tigers their second game of the season at South Webster, to now making four free throws in the final :43 seconds of New Boston’s regional semifinal win over Berne Union, and no one is happier for him than Tigers head coach Adam Cox.
“I started celebrating when Marcus (Saunders) went to the line cause he’s at 90% from the free throw line, and Kyle’s (Sexton) at 75% who missed two front ends but hit a huge one to put us up four,” said Cox. “Tyler came to our timeout and demanded the ball because he knew he was going to make the free throws. He did what a senior is supposed to do. Tyler would have never done that at the beginning of his junior year, he would never have come up to me and told me to put him on the line. That’s how much he’s grown since the Webster game.”
But Caldwell wasn’t the only Tiger who stepped up when it mattered most. Junior Malachi Potts, who’s stature may be small, erupted Tuesday’s crowd with his play at the end of the first half maybe louder than any player has in this year’s postseason play at the Convo.
Due to the Tigers’ foul trouble late in the second half, Potts entered into the game and made incredible plays almost instantly that electrified the New Boston fan base. A floater with under three minutes left, two no-look assists to Grady Jackson and Kyle Sexton, and two three’s in the final :24 seconds, one of which was from thirty feet as the halftime buzzer expired helped cap off the Tigers 19-4 run to end the first half and to put New Boston up 41-33.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a time the Convo’s been louder than when I hit that buzzer beating three,” said Potts. “Our fans went insane. That’s the type of support that helps us win these games, discourages the other team and helps get us pumped.”
“Malachi came to Columbus to help scout Berne Union with us, being one of our captains,” said Cox. “He told me that he thought Marcus (Saunders) should start over him because he’s played the last eight games off the bench, averaging 16 points per game. I’m superstitious so I didn’t want to change the lineup, but he told me if we won, he’d be okay with it. But that’s Malachi, that tells you what kind of kid I have. That speaks volumes to what kind of kid he is.”
Berne Union started off Tuesday’s game 4/6 from behind the three point line and at a 25-16 advantage through the first eight minutes. From there, New Boston outscored the Rockets 25-8 in the second period and 53-39 over the last three quarters.
For the game, New Boston was red hot from behind the arc. The Tigers finished the game 10/17 from behind the three point line and 22/38 from the field overall.
Nearly six Tigers finished in double figures, an astounding figure when considering New Boston only played seven players Tuesday night. After scoring 69 points Tuesday night, the Tigers have eclipsed the 60 point mark for the third time in as many games this season at the Convo.
The only other teams to hit the sixty point mark at the Convo this post season are Coal Grove in their district semifinal win over Fairfeld, 81-46 and Sheridan in their district semifinal win over Waverly, 65-45, and Berlin Hiland Tuesday night. No other team has done it more than one time, while the Tigers have now accomplished that feat three times.
Tuesday’s win over Berne Union elevates New Boston to their first regional title game appearance in 59 years. Waiting in the wings with a spot in the final four on the line is the #1 team in the state, the Berlin Hiland Hawks who defeated Coal Grove 70-39 in their regional semifinal game Tuesday night to advance to the regional final.
With everything New Boston has accomplished in this historic postseason run, they’re now leaving everything on the line in Friday night’s regional title game against the top team in the state of Ohio in Division IV.
“We know we’re up against a tall task,” said Cox. “We know our next game is our toughest game. Berlin Hiland is the number one team in the state for a reason. They’re dang good, they have five seniors and five juniors. We know what’s expected and we know what’s coming, we have two days to do it. These guys like the underdog role, they love it. We’ll eat it up and give it everything we have, and if we pull off the shocker, we’ll make our reservations in Columbus and have a good weekend up there.”
New Boston and Berlin Hiland will do battle Friday night in the Division IV regional championship game at the Convo, tipoff is slated for 7:00 p.m.
NB: 16-25-13-15 – 69
BU: 25-8-16-15 – 64
NB: 22/38 FG, 10/17 3PT, 15/25 FT. Scoring: Caldwell 18, Sexton 13, Saunders 10, Potts 10, McKinley 9, Jackson 9
BU: 22/54 FG, 7/22 3PT, 13/17 FT. Scoring: Mirgon 18, Harmon 11, Ross 10, Unger 10, McCartney 6, Sullivan 4, Dickerson 3, Blevins 2