WELLSTON — Caden Sparks sparked Crooksville’s comeback, and Caden Miller made the Bobcats pay equally as much.
However, Green’s demise on Tuesday night was just as much as the Bobcats’ own doing as it was anybody else’s.
As a result, the Bobcats — after losing three nine-point third-quarter leads — ultimately saw their season suddenly come to an end in the Division IV sectional championship game, as the eighth-seeded Ceramics defeated ninth-seeded Green 52-48 at Wellston High School.
Crooksville, playing as a Division IV program after many tournaments in Division III, climbed to 11-12 — while the Bobcats, bounced as a second-seed last season in the sectional final by Whiteoak — conclude this campaign at 12-12.
And, as Green head coach Dirk Hollar said, Tuesday’s tilt was simply a microcosm of an up-and-down and done at .500 season.
The Bobcats played well for two-and-a-half quarters, but the final quarter-and-a-half was a sincere struggle.
The Ceramics outscored Green 29-19 in the second half, as the Bobcats had just eight second-half field goals —and eight of their 13 turnovers occurred over the same span.
Green’s Gage Sampson, the senior standout and Bobcat scoring and rebounding machine, scored 19 of his game-high 23 points in the first half, including 15 in the second stanza — when Green got rolling and led by as much as seven points twice (27-20 and 29-22).
The Bobcats held a 29-23 halftime advantage, and led by as much as nine points three times (34-25, 36-27 and 38-29) halfway through the third period.
But the Ceramics, attacking the rim at will and also scoring off offensive rebounds, outscored the Bobcats 23-10 over the final nine minutes and 50 seconds.
Sampson, after shooting 9-for-15 in the opening half, shot just five times in the second amid double-teams — and sometimes triple-teams — and only scored four points.
The Bobcats, in shooting 37-and-a-half percent on 21-of-56, both missed from point-blank and also long range.
Green was only 4-of-19 from the three-point arc for a chilly 21-percent.
“We knew what they were going to do at halftime, and we told other kids they had to step up. My assistant coach told me that we missed at least 10 to 12 layups, we turned the ball at bad times, and we didn’t box out. The effort that we had in the first half completely disappeared in the second half,” said Hollar. “But it’s been the same things that have been beating us all year. Not boxing out, not taking care of the ball, a lot of stupid things.”
The Ceramics, meanwhile, found their spark with Sparks.
Of his team-high 19 points, he scored 11 in the second half, making six field goals and 7-of-8 free throws — none of which were bigger than his old-fashioned three-point play which gave Crooksville a 47-46 advantage and only 2:13 remaining.
Sparks scored all eight of his fourth-quarter markers over that final 2:13, drilling a dagger of a jumper from the free-throw elbow just 20 seconds later.
Sampson scored with 1:25 to play, but back came Sparks — driving directly down the lane and into the teeth of the Bobcats’ defense — on the ensuing possession.
Hollar had warned his charges about the Ceramics’ dribble-penetration plan.
It worked, and Green simply couldn’t make many stops.
As evidenced from the free-throw totals, which Crooksville attempted 18 and made 13 — while Green shot just four freebies the entire night.
“When we watched film of them, we said simply to just stay in front because all they want to do is take you off the dribble. In the second half, we continued to let them take us off the dribble and score,” said the coach. “I thought the biggest difference in the game was them getting to the rim and we didn’t.”
The Bobcats then missed their second-to-last two-point chance, Miller made his game-high 15th and final rebound count, and Sparks split a pair of one-and-one free throws with 19 seconds remaining.
From there, Green didn’t get any shot off trailing 52-48 — until the final few seconds when Sampson did from two-point range and Levi Singleton launched a fall-off three-pointer at the buzzer.
Singleton sank three threes for nine points to follow Sampson’s 23, but he attempted 10 triples in doing so, as Sampson tallied 11 field goals on 20 attempts and split a pair of second-quarter free throws.
Levi Sampson, freshman brother of Gage, scored seven points — but was 3-of-10 from the field.
Ethan Huffman had six points but shot 3-of-11, and Alec Smith scored a first-quarter field goal — but suffered a nasty-looking separated shoulder late in the canto, and didn’t return to the contest until the second half.
Smith split a pair of third-quarter free throws, which were the Bobcats’ only other attempts.
Again, it was mainly a matter of Green just not making shots when it had to — and the Ceramics conversely capitalizing.
The Bobcats actually held a 21-19 advantage in total field goals, as Crooksville’s only three-pointer was a big one — when Colt White swished a trifecta from the wing for a 40-39 Ceramic cushion just 28 seconds into the fourth period.
That followed an 8-1 Ceramic spurt over the final minute and 50 seconds of the third, in which Crooksville erased a 38-29 deficit to get within two (39-37).
“We missed double digits in layups, and even though our turnovers were better than normal, they were in the second half at the worst times,” said Hollar. “We always do the dumbest things at the worst times. That’s exactly what we did tonight. The same things that beat us all year beat us again.”
Those would be missed easy shots, turnovers and rebounding, as Crooksville outrebounded the Bobcats 38-31 — with Miller muscling for 10 of his 15 in the second half.
Miller, on four field goals and 4-of-6 free throws, added a dozen points — while White and Tyler Rambo, on three field goals apiece, each scored seven for the Ceramics.
Rambo and Sparks secured eight and six rebounds respectively, while Levi Sampson with 10, Gage Sampson with nine and Huffman with seven were the top board-getters for Green.
The Bobcats did score the opening six points in the first minute and 40 seconds, but the Ceramics scored nine of the next 11 to lead 9-8 exactly four minutes later.
Rambo, with a bucket inside, beat the first-quarter buzzer to make it 15-11 in favor of Crooksville — before the Bobcats got going for the next 14 minutes and 50 seconds.
However, that momentum unfortunately didn’t last, as Hollar said his squad was your typical .500 basketball club.
And, on Tuesday night, Green’s demise was primarily its own doing.
“We finished 12-12, and I feel that eight to 10 of those games, we just beat ourselves. We couldn’t put a full game together,” said the coach. “I’ve said it over and over, we’ll play two or three good quarters, but there’s always that one quarter or half that bites us. It happened tonight. We had a great first half and we didn’t have a good second half. We didn’t finish possessions, we didn’t box out and we didn’t take care of the ball. And those are the three things that we stress every single day.”
Green graduates five seniors: Sampson, Smith, Trevor Darnell, Cade Brammer and Nathan Weigand.
“We’re going to miss those five. They are all really good kids who work really hard,” said Hollar. “We just didn’t get the job done tonight. It’s disappointing and frustrating, because we continued to beat ourselves throughout the year.”
* * *
Green 11 18 10 9 —48
Crooksville 15 8 14 15 —52
GREEN 48 (12-12)
Trevor Darnell 0 0-0 0, Gage Sampson 1 1-2 23, Ethan Huffman 3 0-0 6, Alec Smith 1 1-2 3, Levi Singleton 3 0-0 9, Levi Sampson 3 0-0 7, Caden Brammer 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 21 2-4 48; Three-point goals: 4 (Levi Singleton 3, Levi Sampson 1)
CROOKSVILLE 52 (11-12)
Brayden Cavinee 1 1-2 3, Colt White 3 0-0 7, Caden Miller 4 4-6 12, Tyler Rambo 3 1-2 7, Blake White 2 0-0 4, Caden Sparks 6 7-8 19; TOTALS 19 13-18 52; Three-point goals: 1 (Colt White 1)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved