WAVERLY — Minford Falcon fans know him as “EVL”, but on Wednesday night, Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis was simply the “MVP”.
That’s because the athletic junior Vogelsong-Lewis, in leading the 12th-seeded Falcons’ free-throw fest against Coal Grove, erupted for a career-high 34 points — and Minford made good on all but seven of its foul shots, as the Falcons stung the Hornets 69-63 in a Southeast District Division III sectional semifinal inside Waverly’s historic Downtown Arena.
A pair of 34s — as in 34 points from EV-L and 34 Falcon free throws.
It was also a character-building victory for the Falcons, which trailed by counts of 14-7 and 31-23 — of which they spent the opening two minutes and 38 seconds of the second stanza erasing, before spending the entire third frame wiping out the eight-point deficit.
The Falcons finally went ahead for good in the final minute of the third quarter, and then spent the final seven minutes and 24 seconds in either the one-and-one bonus situation or the enchilada double-bonus free throws with the Hornets having committed 10 team fouls in the half.
And, did the Minford Red ever make out in “the black” on its foul shots.
The Falcons shot just one free throw in the first half — the back end of a Vogelsong-Lewis three-point play which made it 27-23 with 1:17 to play in the second quarter.
They then went 4-of-5 in the third, as Vogelsong-Lewis and Trenton Zimmerman converted a pair apiece, while Matthew Risner attempted one after a made basket.
Finally in the fourth, Minford made its way to the stripe early and often — 28 times to be exact as they meshed 22.
Vogelsong-Lewis was 9-of-12 in the fourth, Zimmerman made 5-of-6, Nathan McCormick canned 4-of-6, and Risner and Drew Skaggs each sank 2-of-2.
In the final tally, that made Vogelsong-Lewis 12-of-15 and Zimmerman 7-of-8, as Zimmerman made Minford’s only two two-point goals of the quarter towards his personal 11 points.
However, no doubt about it, it was Vogelsong-Lewis leading the way.
He scored 14 first-half points, but saved his best for the second half, which included three third-period lead-gaining deuces.
Vogelsong-Lewis, already a Division V third-team all-Ohio football quarterback, likely locked up another all-state selection — at least Honorable Mention — in basketball, tossing in five twos and four threes on 9-of-12 shooting from the field.
Like on the gridiron, “EV-L” made “MVP” plays on the hardwood Wednesday night with both his hands — and feet.
“I just have to give a lot of credit to Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis right now,” said Minford coach Josh Shoemaker. “When we were down eight (31-23), he was the vocal leader in the huddle. When I say that, I mean that’s a leader by example. Not only was he ripping and shredding and just trying to get the very best effort out of everybody, but he also did everything he could to his ability to make sure we won this game. Just had a career game with 34 points, 12-of-15 at the line and 9-of-12 from the field. And he laid it all out there on the line.”
Needless to say, but he also made the play of the game — one which should be remembered in Minford lore for years to come.
With Minford leading 69-63, Vogelsong-Lewis was fouled with 10 tics to play.
With the other Falcons off the line, he missed the first of the double-bonus free throws, as well as the second.
But not one, not two, not three, but count ‘em four Hornets never boxed him out, as he sprinted forward from the line right to the ball and grabbed the offensive rebound.
He then raced out of the lane to his right with two Hornets chasing and trying to foul him, but Vogelsong-Lewis beat them to the backcourt — and beat the clock as well as time expired.
“That play just exemplified how hard he plays,” said Shoemaker. “It was just one of those career games that was all just guts and effort. It wasn’t him shooting the basketball great from the outside. It was him, as a 5-10 guard, just going into the post and working on guys.”
Thanks largely to Vogelsong-Lewis, the Falcons raised their record to 13-9, captured their third consecutive win and — most importantly — advanced to Saturday’s sectional championship tilt against fifth-seeded Chesapeake.
The Panthers, one of five Division III teams to receive a first-round bye out of the 27 total in this season’s Southeast District super-sectional format, are 18-3 — as a non-league makeup matchup against 19-2 and Division IV Peebles may or may not be played.
Chesapeake and Minford meet at 6 p.m. at Jackson High School — with the winner advancing to the Division III district tournament at the Ohio University Convocation Center in Athens.
For the majority of three quarters, it appeared as if 21st-seeded Coal Grove was bound for a third meeting with Chesapeake — as both are members of the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Hornets’ health this season has been a point of concern, and a key explanation behind their 5-17 record entering Wednesday night.
They scored seven straight points to break a 7-7 tie at the 3:05 mark of the opening quarter, and led 14-7 just two minutes and 50 seconds later, then answered 10 unanswered from the Falcons with a 15-6 spree over the final 5:22 of the half to lead 29-23.
The Hornets hit five of their eight three-pointers in the first half, including three by Cory Borders, who poured in 25 points to pace Coal Grove — 15 of which came courtesy on five trifectas.
Peyton Smith scored a basket just 35 seconds into the third period, giving Coal Grove its largest advantage — as Minford didn’t score in the quarter until the 4:04 mark when Vogelsong-Lewis made his two foul shots.
But over the next minute and 32 seconds, baskets by Adam Crank and Risner and Zimmerman’s free throws drew Minford even at 31-31— as Vogelsong-Lewis got the Falcons’ final three field goal, giving Minford a 37-36 lead entering the fourth.
From there, with Minford back in the game and even ahead — it was walks to the line, time and again, for the Falcons in the fourth.
“When Elijah started going, guys started following,” said Shoemaker. “(Trenton) Zimmerman and (Nathan) McCormick started rebounding the ball on the defensive end. (Matthew) Risner had a really good driving game the second half. Drew Skaggs gave us great energy off the bench both scoring and rebounding.”
But buoyed by Borders’ 10 fourth-quarter points against the Falcons’ triangle-and-two defense, including his other two triples, Coal Grove got as close as 47-44 with 3:55 remaining — but Minford’s Skyler Knore knocked down a three-ball on the ensuing possession just 10 seconds later.
The Falcons forged ahead with a 65-51 advantage at the 1:11 juncture for their largest of the game, but back-to-back threes by Borders and Malachi Wheeler trimmed the deficit to 67-61 — before a Wheeler putback with 17 seconds left made it 69-63, and set up the final “MVP” play by “EVL”.
Skaggs sparked the Falcons for the entirety as well, scoring seven points on a first-quarter two, a second quarter three, and finally his two fourth-quarter foul shots.
Risner registered six points on two field goals and 2-of-3 freebies, while McCormick managed a team-high six rebounds in addition to his 4-of-6 free throws.
The Falcons shot an even 40-percent on 18-of-45, and committed only 11 turnovers.
Wheeler, with 4-of-5 free throws, added 11 points to follow Borders’ 25.
Borders, who returned from injury about halfway through the season, shot 9-of-20 from the field — part of 44-percent (23-of-52) as a team.
Oh, and by the way, if you were wondering, the Hornets had only 14 free-throw attempts — netting nine.
Wheeler and Smith, who scored seven points, both fouled out while Tait Matney — who tallied 10 points including a second-quarter three-pointer — finished with four.
Indeed, with Vogelsong-Lewis leading the way, Minford marches on to Saturday’s sectional championship — and a tangle with the young yet talented Panthers.
Shoemaker said Chesapeake presents “one of the best matchup zones you’re going to see”.
“I am just really proud of our kids,” said the coach. “In tournament games, kids can put their heads down when they get behind and easily take the loss. But we really battled back, and it really takes focus to get on the free-throw line and knock those down. Elijah started it and everybody followed after that. Now Chesapeake is super-hard to prepare for because of this matchup zone. No one else runs it quite like they do. They play fast, and if you turn the ball over, they turn those into points. We’re going to have to take care of the ball, but all we want is a shot at going to the ‘Convo’ and that’s what we get.”
* * *
Coal Grove 14 15 7 27 — 63
Minford 11 12 14 32 — 69
COAL GROVE 63 (5-18)
Perry Kingery 0 0-0 0, Cory Borders 9 2-2 25, Evan Gannon 2 0-0 5, Peyton Smith 3 1-3 7, Tait Matney 4 1-2 10, Malachi Wheeler 3 4-5 11, Jarren Hicks 2 1-2 5; TOTALS 23 9-14 63; Three-point goals: 8 (Cory Borders 5, Evan Gannon, Tait Matney and Malachi Wheeler 1 apiece)
MINFORD 69 (13-9)
Hunter Davis 1 0-0 2, Trenton Zimmerman 2 7-8 11, Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 9 12-15 34, Skyler Knore 1 0-0 3, Nathan McCormick 0 4-6 4, Drew Skaggs 2 2-2 7, Matthew Risner 2 2-3 6, Adam Crank 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 18 27-34 69; Three-point goals: 6 (Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 4, Skyler Knore and Drew Skaggs 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved