RICHMOND DALE — New Boston’s Elite Eight run two years ago paved the way for Friday night’s celebration inside Southeastern High School’s Larry Jordan Gymnasium.
The Tigers were underdogs then, but have played like the favorites during the entirety of their 2020-21 postseason run.
Trailing Hiland 12-9 after the first quarter of Friday’s Division IV regional final, the Tigers outscored the Hawks 35-27 over the final three periods — winning 44-39 to claim the program’s first regional championship since 1960.
The win also breaks the decade-long ice for Scioto County teams — boys or girls — as the last regional basketball champ to come from the county prior to Friday were the 2010-11 and 2011-12 Portsmouth Trojans.
An elated Tigers coach Adam Cox praised his players, team and coaching staff for helping do their part in Friday’s win — and also the entire season.
“It’s been a wild ride. I’ve got the best group of seniors and juniors any coach could ask for,” Cox said. “Losing some of those kids we have the last couple of years, it put us behind the eight-ball. But we’ve got kids that have stepped up and showed out — a lot I can say about our team’s gusty performance.”
The five-point win avenges NB’s 75-32 loss to Hiland in their 2019 Elite Eight game at the Ohio University Convocation Center in Athens.
Hawks senior point guard Will Schlabach was the lone returnee from that team — which wound up as the eventual Division IV state runners-up that season to Convoy Crestview.
The Tigers put on a defensive performance of their own this time around, limiting the Hawks to just 13-of-42 shooting and holding every player on their roster to less than double digits in points.
NB seniors Kyle Sexton and Tanner Voiers spoke to the defensive performance and preparation they went through, holding the Hawks to a game-low four points in the fourth quarter.
“We knew that team was five seniors, and they showed us what it’s like,” Sexton said, of facing Hiland two years ago. “That’s what it takes to win a regional title. We just wanted it. We talked about it in the locker room — if we play defense for four quarters, we’d be going to the Final Four.”
“We’ve been preaching defense all year,” Voiers said. “People have said our defense wasn’t very good all year, after the Minford game when we gave up 92. We’ve been really locking down on that end and sticking to our assignments.”
Voiers connected on a game-high four three-pointers towards 13 points, each coming at exactly the right time when the Tigers needed them.
The first tied the contest at 21-all and the second gave NB a 24-21 lead — helping jump-start the Tigers’ 8-0 spurt to close the first half and enter the break with a 26-21 advantage.
His third gave NB its biggest lead of the game at 29-21 just 23 seconds into the third quarter, and the final make came after Hiland tied things up at 35-all entering the final period.
The Tigers wouldn’t look back from that 38-35 lead, holding BH to just four fourth-quarter points to seal the win.
“I didn’t shoot very good here on Tuesday and I was kind of down on myself,” Voiers said. “I wasn’t going to get down on myself tonight, I was just going to let it fly.”
NB junior Brady Voiers came off the bench on Friday night, while starting guard Grady Jackson returned to the starting lineup — after dislocating his shoulder in last week’s district title win over Valley.
The younger Voiers was asked to step up when senior De’Von Jones fouled out with 5:43 to play — after playing just 11 minutes.
Brady Voiers proceeded to make two of the biggest scores of the game and help sustain NB’s momentum, as his back-to-back layups at the rim gave the Tigers a 42-37 lead and put them back in front by two possessions.
“They knew were they were supposed to be on plays. They’ve got the knack for what they’re supposed to do,” Cox said, of the Voiers brothers. “Not the fastest kids, not the quickest kids, not the strongest kids, but they’re the smartest. They know their teammates and know what needs to be done to win.”
NB held Hiland scoreless over the game’s final 3:38 — after a pair of free throws cut the Tigers’ lead to 42-39.
There were nine lead changes and four ties, but no changes in the final eight minutes — after NB’s response to the Hawks taking a 35-33 lead late in the third quarter.
Tanner Voiers’ football pass to senior Chase Clark for Clark’s breakaway layup with less than five seconds to play helped seal the win — and sent the Tiger crowd into a frenzied celebration.
Of course, 61 years of not reaching the state tournament can cause that reaction from a fan base — or village.
“These fans brought it. They showed exactly how much they wanted it, and they knew how much our kids wanted it,” Cox said. “They cheered their butts off, came to see these kids through it and I’m so proud to have a crowd like we had and a village behind us.”
Sexton paced the Tigers with 15 points and 11 rebounds, as he sank 4-of-6 of the Tigers’ 8-of-14 free throws.
New Boston will face Columbus Grove in Friday’s Division IV state semifinal contest inside the University of Dayton Arena — with tipoff slated for 2 p.m.
CG defeated New Bremen 50-48 in its own D-IV regional title game on Friday night, as the winner will face the winner of Richmond Heights and Botkins on Sunday — with the D-IV state championship on the line.
Berlin Hiland 12 9 14 4 — 39
New Boston 9 17 9 9 — 44
BERLIN HILAND 39 (19-9)
Will Schlabach 3 2-4 9, Isaac Slabaugh 1 2-2 5, Grant Miller 1 2-3 5, Tony Yoder 1 0-0 2, Dylan Weaver 3 0-1 8, Trey Troyer 0 0-0 0, Ryan Miller 3 1-2 7, Caden Miller 1 0-0 3; TOTALS 13 7-12 39; Three-point goals: 6 (Dylan Weaver 2, Will Schlabach, Isaac Slabaugh, Grant Miller and Caden Miller 1 apiece) Shooting: 13-42 (6-22 from 3-point); Rebounds: 21 (Ryan Miller 7); Turnovers: 7; Steals: 3
NEW BOSTON 44 (24-2)
De’Von Jones 2 0-0 5, Grady Jackson 1 1-2 3, Tanner Voiers 4 1-2 13, Kyle Sexton 5 4-6 15, Sethe Perry 0 0-0 0, Chase Clark 1 2-2 4, Brady Voiers 2 0-2 4; TOTALS 15 8-14 44; Three-point field goals: 6 (Tanner Voiers 4, Kyle Sexton and De’Von Jones 1 apiece); Shooting: 15-37 (6-13 from 3-point); Rebounds: 28 (Kyle Sexton 11); Turnovers: 10; Steals: 2
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved