RICHMOND DALE — Some say it’s all about how you finish, and not necessarily about how you start.
But, leave it to the New Boston Tigers — on Tuesday night anyway in the Division IV regional semifinal —to emphatically buck that trend.
As a result, New Boston made good on a runaway turned into a precarious cliffhanger inside Southeastern High School’s Larry Jordan Gymnasium — as the Tigers truly survived and advanced with a nail-biting 50-48 victory over the Central District champion Grandview Heights Bobcats.
That’s right, as this one went from a Tiger blowout to way too close of an encounter for New Boston by game’s end.
Still, in the universe of tournament basketball, it’s simply all about winning — whether by 30 or more with a running clock or by one on a buzzer-beater.
The short-benched Tigers almost completely ran that gauntlet on Tuesday night —crafting as large as a 17-point advantage (46-29) and only 10 minutes and 20 seconds remaining, before the Bobcats completed wiped that lead out.
Eventually, the Bobcats crawled all the way back against the Tigers —and trailed 46-45 with three minutes and five seconds to play.
But the Tigers scored all four of their fourth-quarter points over the next minute on baskets by Kyle Sexton and Chase Clark, and didn’t allow the Bobcats to get off a final shot at the end —as New Boston truly survived and advanced its way into the Elite Eight for the second time in three years.
New Boston coach Adam Cox acknowledged that Grandview Heights had a great fourth quarter, and that the Tigers’ turnovers throughout were way too much, but bottom line is that New Boston built enough of a lead where it was two points greater at the horn.
“Hats off to Grandview Heights for dialing up the intensity in the fourth and not wanting their season to end. They were doubling, running and jumping and getting us out of rhythm and disrupting our flow. But we held on, and that’s the main thing. The first three games in the tournament you win by 20, the fourth one you win by two, it still doesn’t matter. Along this journey, we had to win a game that maybe we shouldn’t have held on to,” said Cox. “I’m glad we escaped with the win. We’re moving on and still playing.”
And, that’s what the mad month of March is all about.
With the win, the Tigers raised their stellar record to 23-2 and —more importantly —will play in their second regional championship tilt in three years on Friday night.
In fact, New Boston will play the team that handled them two years ago inside the Ohio University Convocation Center — the Hiland Hawks, which rallied from a 27-22 halftime deficit to defeat Trimble 57-50 in Tuesday’s other semifinal at Southeastern.
It’s a new-look Hawk squad, but one that is familiar with the six-foot five-inch standout senior Sexton.
Most observers are, by now, quite familiar with him — as the two-time (Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association) Division IV Southeast District Division IV Player of the Year once again spearheaded the Tigers’ onslaught.
Sexton poured in a game-high 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting, which included 2-of-3 first-half three-point attempts —and 5-of-7 free throws in which he meshed 5-of-6 second-stanza tosses.
Sexton also pulled down 13 rebounds and dished out four assists, as he scored 23 of his 25 and grabbed nine boards through the opening three quarters.
He was charged with 10 turnovers, but with junior Grady Jackson limited in his ball-handling abilities after suffering a separated shoulder in the Tigers’ district championship win over Valley on Saturday night, Sexton shouldered the workload even more.
After three first-quarter lead changes and three ties, the Tigers took charge with a 13 unanswered points to break a 9-9 tie.
New Boston held a 29-22 halftime lead, then notched nine more unanswered in opening the the third frame —for a 38-22 bulge just three minutes in.
Sexton scored seven first-period points, tacked on 10 in the second, and finally threw in three more of his nine total field goals in the third.
“Kyle did a great job today. He even went to the basket a few times tonight and didn’t get the call I thought he deserved. But I can’t say enough about the kid. He put us on his back when we needed him to. He showed up in the first half and third quarter and got us going. With Grady (Jackson) being hurt, Kyle was the only one on the floor which was on the Elite Eight team two years ago,” said Cox. “Kyle kind of took the pressure off early, got us going with a good first half, and rebounded well while distributing the ball some.”
However, Sexton needed to take —and make — a shot when New Boston needed it most.
The Bobcats, battling back from that 46-29 deficit, scored 16 consecutive points from the final minute and 40 seconds of the third quarter through the opening 4:55 of the fourth.
Grandview Heights hit three of its four made three-pointers as part of the furious comeback, as the Bobcat big man —six-foot eight-inch Grant Culbertson — stuck back a rebound putback for the 46-45 deficit.
It was the closest the Bobcats came following their 9-9 tie — as Grandview Heights held its last lead at 7-6, which went back to New Boston after Chase Clark connected on the first of two three-pointers.
Sexton’s only fourth-quarter shot was easily arguably his biggest of the game —a runner in the lane with 2:48 remaining, and which made it 48-45.
The Bobcats then misfired on a pair of trifecta tries, and Clark came back with his fifth and final field goal — with 125 seconds to play that made it a five-point (50-45) margin.
From there, Grandview Heights had three fouls to give before putting the Tigers into the one-and-one foul-shooting situation — but the Tigers missed both of their free-throw attempts in the final 37 seconds, sandwiched around a three-point goal by the Bobcats’ Tristin Pierce.
New Boston missed its second one-and-one with 15 seconds showing, and the Bobcats played for the final shot to tie or win — but Tre Holliman never got one off on the left side, as Clark and De’Von Jones closed down defensively as the time ran out.
Cox claimed he was “watching the game”.
“I didn’t know how much time exactly was left on the clock, other than just a few seconds. I thought they still had a chance to get a shot off, but De’Von (Jones) and Chase (Clark) were able to get a trap down there and Kyle (Sexton) was in help side,” said the coach. “The buzzer went off, they didn’t get a shot off, and let the celebration begin.”
The Tigers’ true key to victory was actually their first-half defensive effort, which forced Grandview Heights into a 7-of-22 shooting effort, including only 1-of-8 from three-point land.
As New Boston boosted its lead to 22-9, the Bobcats didn’t score for a span of seven minutes and 23 seconds.
Despite 22 total turnovers, the Tigers shot 49-percent on 18-of-37 — and grabbed 32 rebounds.
Clark, like Sexton, sank a pair of three-pointers towards a dozen points — as he also grabbed seven rebounds.
Jones finished with five points, including 3-of-5 foul shots, and nine rebounds —while Tanner Voiers scored seven on two twos and a third-quarter triple.
His brother, Brady Voiers, split a pair of third-quarter free throws.
But the Tigers took over on the strength of their defense and rebounding.
Grandview Heights had 10 fewer boards, and shot just 17-of-54 from the field for 31-and-a-half percent —including only 4-of-18 (22-percent) from three-point territory.
“I felt like we controlled the clock, controlled the tempo, and we were able to make some baskets and get back and really work hard and stay in that 1-3-1 and trap on that first pass. We really worked hard in the post too,” said Cox. “We stayed home on the big guys in the post after the first quarter. The wings covered the corners, the post stayed home and we were able to take that easy dump-down they were doing. We made that adjustment and the kids really bought in again to the defensive gameplan and executed it well.”
Indeed, and fourth quarter aside, it was another nicely-played New Boston tournament tilt.
However, the Tigers MUST do all things better against the Hawks on Friday night.
“We have to limit our turnovers, we have to rebound the ball better, we have to make free throws if we’re going to beat Berlin Hiland,” said Cox. “They are a state-known program, and our work is not going to be easy.”
Two years ago, Hiland won that night in The Convo 75-31, but that lopsided score should have no bearing on what happens on Friday night back at Southeastern.
Tipoff time is set for 7 p.m. — with the winner advancing to the Division IV state semifinals, which are set for Friday March 19 at the University of Dayton.
For the Tigers, it’s now about redemption in a regional final —where they will once again take a two-point triumph.
“We wanted that shot at the Final Four, and we’re going to get it,” said Cox. “These kids are special and this is what we signed up for.”
* * *
Grandview Hts 9 13 11 15 —48
New Boston 13 16 17 4 — 50
GRANDVIEW HEIGHTS (9-10)
Tre Holliman 1 0-0 2, Aiden Leslie 3 3-3 9, Adam Bechtel 0 0-0 0, Danny Claypool 2 0-0 5, Tristin Pierce 4 0-0 11, Will Devere 0 0-0 0, Ian Roediger 0 0-2 0, Ian Gecse 2 5-7 9, Grant Culbertson 5 2-3 12; TOTALS 17 10-15 48; Three-point field goals: 4 (Tristin Pierce 3, Danny Claypool 1)
NEW BOSTON 71 (23-2)
De’Von Jones 1 3-5 5, Grady Jackson 0 0-0 0, Tanner Voiers 3 0-0 7, Kyle Sexton 9 5-7 25, Luke Henson 0 0-0 0, Sethe Perry 0 0-0 0, Chase Clark 5 0-0 12, Brady Voiers 0 1-2 1; TOTALS 18 9-14 50; Three-point field goals: 5 (Kyle Sexton and Chase Clark 2 apiece. Tanner Voiers 1)
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