Simply put, it was Kyle Sexton’s world on Saturday and Saturday night —and everybody else was merely living in it.
That’s because the six-foot five-inch New Boston senior standout Sexton — who on Saturday morning was named for the second consecutive season as the Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association Southeast District Division IV Player of the Year — scored 28 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists in spearheading the Tigers to their second district championship in three years.
New Boston boosted its record to 22-2, and captured its 80th win in four years, with a 71-51 victory over Valley at Northwest High School’s “Mohawk Dome”.
At halftime, he had already torched the Indians for 15 points, four rebounds and four assists — basically playing all inside and outside positions, and playing them quite well.
He handles the basketball as a point guard, pulls up and shoots from the mid-range and in the lane, and absolutely —as legendary Valley coach Norm Persin said — “abused us on the glass.”
Sexton is now a three-time all-Southeast District first-team selection by the OPSWA, and is eligible —and according to many observers is actually the odds-on favorite — for the coveted state POY in Division IV.
Persin praised Sexton by explaining “he is tough matchup.”
“Heck of a player and there is a reason why he is the district Player of the Year. He can play on the perimeter, he can play on the inside, he can handle the ball, he is such a great passer and rebounder. He is really good and is one of the best players this area has had in a long time,” said the coach. “They have other kids besides him that can score, but everything revolves around him.”
New Boston coach Adam Cox knows that as well, and knew it immediately on Saturday night.
Sexton’s best play perhaps?
Early observation and polling pointed to a slick and silky-smooth behind-the-back pass to Tanner Voiers for a transition layup early in the game.
“I was praying all day today that this wasn’t the last time I get to coach that kid. He’s that special of a player and that special of a young man. He is determined to not let us go until he’s fulfilled his dream of getting to the Final Four,” said Cox. “If there’s any kid in our division in the whole state that I’d want to go to battle with, it’s Kyle Sexton. He just looked like he was on a different level than those freshmen and sophomores from Valley.”
‘Burg better with FT
When Wheelersburg defeated visiting West last Tuesday night in the Division III district semifinals, the Pirates shot only 9-of-18 — or 50-percent — from the free-throw line.
At the time, because of the Pirates’ play and subsequent 52-40 win, that statistic seemed to matter little.
However, after building as much as a 20-point advantage over Eastern Brown early in the third quarter on the strength of seven three-point goals including four from J.J. Truitt — the Pirates needed to make their fourth-quarter freebies in order to hold off the hard-charging Warriors to win Friday night’s district championship at Piketon High School.
Wheelersburg went up 40-20, then all of the sudden found itself only ahead 55-53 in the fourth quarter.
The Pirates, though, after splitting on six first-half attempts —enjoyed the late parade to the stripe, and ended up making 17-of-27 for the entire game.
They didn’t attempt any in the third frame, but Truitt tried all seven of his in the fourth —and meshed four towards 20 points.
Gage Adkins — bandage over his eye and all after running right into the wall at one point — added 3-of-4 as part of 4-of-6, and fellow senior Matthew Miller and sophomore Kenny Sanderlin sank 2-of-2, which was part of 3-of-3 and 4-of-6 respectively.
Eli Swords split a fourth-quarter pair, part of 2-of-5 for him.
Wheelersburg coach Steven Ater admitted that his Pirates didn’t shoot “75-percent”, but “had to” make them down the stretch.
“We told our guys at halftime that this game was going to get physical, they were going to ramp up the aggression, and we were going to have to go to the free-throw line and knock them down,” said Ater. “These guys had to step up and make those shots in order for us to win this district title tonight. They did it, and it just shows the toughness out of them.”
“Sweet Lou” in the house
The uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus threat forced the OHSAA’s Southeast District Athletic Board to abandon the idea of the Ohio University Convocation Center serving as host to this year’s district tournament games.
The Convo, of course, is the longtime home to the Southeast District boys basketball district semifinals and finals —for Divisions II, III and IV.
It is also the host of the regional tournaments in all three divisions.
But with COVID cancelling those Convo contests this season, the district championship games were to be played at neutral sites —and Piketon played host to Wheelersburg and Eastern Brown in Division III and Northwest to Valley and New Boston in Division IV.
Making a cameo appearance on both Friday and Saturday nights was the Convocation Center’s longtime legendary public address announcer —“Sweet Lou” Lou Horvath.
Thus, when you can’t come to The Convo — The Convo, or at least a renown part of it, comes to you.
Horvath, known for his catch phrases and energetic on-point style, has an introduction famous for all basketball fans in Southeastern Ohio —and that’s “Basketball :30”.
Horvath claimed he “brought a clock from the Convo” to both Piketon and Northwest —and that “Basketball :30” is the only time anybody needed to know.
A feature report on Horvath’s weekend appearance in Scioto and Pike counties will appear in an upcoming edition of The Portsmouth Daily Times.
Prior to both district championship games, there was a moment of silence to remember the late Kent Sanborn.
Sanborn, owner of www.southernohiosportsphotos.com, was a longtime fixture for basketball tournament games inside The Convo —as he was a fantastic sports photographer who shot primarily for The Ironton Tribune since 1982.
Sanborn, who permitted the use of several of his photographs in other accredited publications including The Portsmouth Daily Times, passed away on Thursday, March 4 following a brief bout with liver cancer.
A 1977 graduate of Ironton High School, Sanborn was 61 years of age.
No doubt his presence was greatly missed this past weekend, but his legacy lives on.
His family, close colleagues and many friends — including yours truly — shall never forget the impact he made.
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