SOUTH WEBSTER — If you liked dramatics, this Division IV sectional final was the game for you.
In the final six minutes of the fourth quarter, No. 8-seed South Webster and No. 9-seed Notre Dame played to three ties and neither team led by more than five points in that stretch.
The visiting Titans indeed had their chances to either take the lead or tie and send the game to overtime, but South Webster (9-12) never relinquished their lead after taking a 50-48 lead with 14 seconds to play when sophomore Will Collins sank a pair of free throws for the game’s final points.
The win gave the Jeeps the program’s fifth-consecutive Division IV sectional title, but the first on their home court during that span as this is the first postseason in OHSAA history in which games through the district semis are hosted by the higher-seeded club.
“It is a great accomplishment for this team to be a part of a great run like this. The extra hard work and time they put in really paid off vs. a great Notre Dame team,” SW coach Brenton Cole said, after the win. “Awesome feeling getting it done at home and being able to celebrate.”
Interestingly enough, the Jeeps scored just 16 second half points after leading 34-26 at halftime and leading by as many as 13 points in the first half (33-20).
SW’s leading scorer for the season Trae Zimmerman scored just two points in the second half, but it was other players like Collins and junior Cam Carpenter who stepped up and led the way down the stretch.
“With the team facing a diamond and one on Zimmerman, a 1-3-1 zone, and man defense as ND switched it up, the other guys really stepped up and played well attacking the rim and getting stops on the defensive side of the floor,” Cole said. “Big defensive boards, unselfish play whether you score six points or twenty six it — doesn’t matter to these guys as long as they get the win.”
Notre Dame (11-10) nearly overcame the 13-point first half deficit, thanks in large part to the shot-making of juniors Johnathan Strickland and Jermaine Powell.
The duo combined to score 27 of ND’s 48 points, including 11 of their 13 in the game’s fourth quarter.
“Those guys did hit big shots down the stretch to bring us back,” ND coach Matt Mader said, after the game. “Strickland had been doing it all year as he has lead us in scoring at a little over 17 per game. I thought JP played very well tonight as he led us with 15 and he was tough to guard tonight.”
After Collins sank the go-ahead FTs in the final few seconds, Mader used a timeout to set-up what would be the game’s final possession.
South Webster fouled three times as the Titans attempted to advance the ball into the front-court, giving ND eight seconds to inbound the ball and get off their shots.
Senior Caleb Nichols’ potential go-ahead three off the inbound pass nearly fell, and fellow senior Jackson Clark’s potential game-tying putback from an offensive rebound also didn’t manage to fall as time expired — preserving the Jeeps’ narrow two-point win in regulation.
“We were able to get two good looks there at the end and we just didn’t convert,” Mader said, of the end sequence. “They fouled us a couple times leading up to the final eight seconds of play and we executed perfectly where we get a wide open three for the win that goes halfway down and comes out, and we also get an offensive rebound and miss a point blank put-back to tie as time expired. I don’t think you could hope for anything better in that situation.”
Collins’ go-ahead free throws were part of his team-high 14 points, while Carpenter added 12 and Zimmerman 11.
“Cam has been a solid player all year for us and Collins is fully back from his injury,” Cole said. “Those guys get a ton done for us on most nights that you don’t see in the scorebook battling in the trenches working hard and getting rebounds.”
Notre Dame will graduate four seniors from their 11-10 campaign this season as it indeed ends in a winning season for the roundball Titans — a program that is no doubt trending upward, despite the sectional setback.
Nichols, Clark, Ethan Kammer and Chris Schmidt were all spoke of highly by Mader for their roles in the Titans’ winning season after competing in their final game for the blue and gold on the hardwood.
“This senior group won as many games this year as they had in the last three years combined. All four of our seniors are four year guys in our program and all four are quality young men and I am very proud of their work ethic, attitude, and character,” Mader said. “This is a very resilient bunch that kept fighting all year long. We were in so many close games this season and I’m proud of how competitive these guys were collectively.”
ND will return a good chunk of their core rotation in 2021-22, including three of five starters and five of eight rotation players.
“We return a very good nucleus next year as five of our top eight return,” Mader acknowledged. “These guys played major minutes for us this season as JP returns at the PG position, as well as our utility guy that has started his first two years in Dylan Seison. We also have our two post players returning in Carter Campbell and Dominic Sparks, as well as our leading scorer in Strickland. We are definitely headed in the right direction and I can’t wait to get back in the gym and get ready for next season.”
As for the Jeeps, their fifth-straight sectional title means they’ve punched their ticket into the Division IV district tournament once again.
SW will face a more than familiar opponent in top-seeded New Boston, also a four-time district participant in recent years.
SW and NB have their series history these last four years, meeting in 2018 and 2019 in the district semis at Ohio University’s Convocation Center with each team splitting a win at that stage.
The D4 rivals haven’t played since the Tigers’ 63-60 win over the Jeeps in 2019, meaning Wednesday’s meeting inside Homer Pellegrinon Gymnasium with a spot in the district title game on the line is a story that essentially writes itself.
“It seems the script always works itself out for the meeting between these teams,” Cole said, of facing NB. “It will be a challenge facing a state-ranked, one seed in the tournament New Boston team at their place, but I feel our team will be ready to go come Wednesday. These guys are always up for a challenge and ready to go this time of year.”
Tipoff from New Boston is set for 7 p.m. and can be streamed by visiting the New Boston Local School District website.
Notre Dame 10 16 9 13 — 48
South Webster 12 22 5 11 — 50
NOTRE DAME 48 (11-10)
Carter Campbell 0 0-0 0, Jermaine Powell 6 0-0 15, Caleb Nichols 2 0-0 4, Dominic Sparks 1 0-0 2, Jackson Clark 3 0-0 8, Dylan Seison 3 1-1 7, Johnathan Strickland 4 2-2 12, Ethan Kammer 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 19 3-3 48; Three-point field goals: 7 (Jermaine Powell 3, Jackson Clark and Johnathan Strickland 2 apiece)
SOUTH WEBSTER 50 (9-12)
Connor Bender 2 0-0 5, Trae Zimmerman 4 2-3 11, Jaren Lower 2 0-0 6, Cam Carpenter 5 2-3 12, Brady Blizzard 0 2-2 2, Zander Rawlins 0 0-0 0, Will Collins 5 4-6 14; TOTALS 18 10-13 50; Three-point field goals: 4 (Jaren Lower 2, Trae Zimmerman and Connor Bender 1 apiece)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved