DAYTON — Columbus Grove overcame its second and third-quarter offensive struggles in a big way come crunch time — to the detriment of the New Boston Tigers.
New Boston led by as many as 10 points in Friday’s Division IV state semifinal, but the final eight minutes and five seconds is what made the difference in the Bulldogs’ 58-53 win inside the University of Dayton Arena.
After senior Chase Clark’s layup put the Tigers up 44-34 with barely five seconds to play in the third, CG senior Gabe Clement hit a buzzer-beating half-court heave that was the start of a 24-9 run — one in which the Bulldogs would use to win by a five-point margin.
After posting just 19 combined points in the middle two frames, and trailing by double digits just once, CG’s late-game run punched its ticket to its first state title game since 2006 — and subsequently ended NB’s Final Four run short of its ultimate goal.
“Lot of credit goes to them. They changed things up defensively which makes it tough, they challenged shots at the rim. When they got it to 10, a lot of those are just winning 50-50 balls and offensive rebounds,” CG coach Chris Sautter said, after the game. “Give our kids credit — they battled, hung in there and made the plays down the stretch.”
New Boston senior Kyle Sexton — the two-time defending OPSWA Division IV Southeast District Player of the Year — picked up his fifth foul with 4:23 left, as the Tigers held a 48-44 lead.
Tigers junior Brady Voiers checked in and scored NB’s last five points, but Sexton’s impact — both on defense and on the glass — couldn’t quite be replaced.
“He fouled out and it took a lot of wind out of us. Those kids, they lifted themselves up and went on a little scoring spree,” NB coach Adam Cox said, on Sexton fouling out. “I thought we were going to pull it out without Kyle on the floor, but I knew without the best player in Division IV in the state of Ohio, it was going to be a tough challenge.”
Sexton, a candidate for the Ohio Division IV Player of the Year, said in the post-game presser that picking up his fifth foul with so much time left left him in disbelief.
“The way they were calling the game, I just went up for a rebound like any other player. Then they called a foul right then and there, I was just pissed off. That’s all I can say. Like, you’re going to call a tick-tack foul in the state semis and give me my fifth. Just disbelief,” Sexton said. “I was going to seal the game with free throws.”
Sexton finished the game with a team-high 14 points, a team-high nine rebounds, and yes, a team-high four assists.
The impact of his departure from the game was a big one, and allowed the Bulldogs to change their approach defensively in the last part of the fourth, CG coach Sautter said.
“He’s a heck of a basketball player. With his size and ability to pass the ball, it really made it hard to trap them and be aggressive defensively. When he went out, we felt like we could extend the floor defensively — pick them up full court and trap in the half court,” he said.
Brady Voiers scored the Tigers’ final five points after Sexton fouled out, adding nine off the bench and hitting a huge three in the second quarter — which cut the Tigers’ deficit to 22-21.
“Brady Voiers made some big plays — drove down the lane there at the end and didn’t get the call, maybe if he kicks it to his brother Tanner (for a three-pointer) and he knocks it down, we might be re-writing the storylines,” Cox said. “Things happen for a reason, and I just told these kids we don’t have anything to feel sorry about.”
De’Von Jones scored 12 points on 6-of-14 shooting and grabbed five boards, while Chase Clark scored seven and also grabbed five rebounds.
NB outrebounded CG 25-22, and committed three fewer turnovers (8-11) than the Bulldogs.
The Tigers also won the battle for points in the paint, scoring 36 to the Bulldogs’ 30.
Scoring on the inside was a focus for New Boston during its week of preparation, and especially coming out of the halftime locker room trailing 27-26, Cox said.
“Our kids came out in the third quarter and established the presence in the post with Kyle that we talked about. You could see that we were being a little bit more aggressive,” he said.
Columbus Grove senior Blake Reynolds scored a game-high 22 points, had six rebounds, and dished-out a game-high eight assists.
Thirteen of Reynolds’ 22 came in the fourth on 4-of-5 shots from the field, and a 4-of-5 mark at the free-throw line.
“We switched up some defenses at the end of the first, wanted to give them something they hadn’t seen before. If you watched the game, I thought that they were never comfortable in their offensive sets,” Cox said. “Reynolds started to do the scoring in the fourth, but before that he was being the quarterback.”
The Tigers’ historic season came short of their ultimate goal of a state championship, but its high points are likely to be life lessons for NB’s four-man senior class.
Sexton, Jones, Clark and Tanner Voiers helped guide NB to the program’s first appearance at state since 1960 in their final season, back-to-back SOC I championships, and the program’s fourth straight sectional title.
An emotional Cox said the impact of his players and the lessons learned from this epic ride will pay off years into their future — if they allow it.
“The referees didn’t win or lose that game, it was meant to be the way that God wanted it to be. I told them in the locker-room after if they compete in life the way they did this basketball season, then I’m going to have a lot of successful guys,” he said. “If they take this competitive nature that they had with me into life, then there’s no reason they can’t be anything they want to be.”
Columbus Grove will face Botkins in the Division IV state championship game on Sunday at 10:45 a.m. — right back at UD Arena.
New Boston 12 14 18 9 — 53
Columbus Grove 18 9 10 21 — 58
NEW BOSTON 53 (24-3)
De’von Jones 6 0-1 12, Grady Jackson 2 1-1 5, Tanner Voiers 3 0-0 6, Kyle Sexton 5 3-3 14, Chase Clark 3 0-0 7, Brady Voiers 3 2-4 9; TOTALS 22 6-9 53; Three-point field goals: 3 (Kyle Sexton, Chase Clark and Brady Voiers 1 apiece); Shooting: 22-48 (3-9 from 3-point); Rebounds: 25 (Kyle Sexton 9); Turnovers: 8; Assists: 10 (Kyle Sexton 4); Steals: 8 (Tanner Voiers and Kyle Sexton 2 apiece)
COLUMBUS GROVE 58 (25-2)
Blake Reynolds 8 5-6 22, Tayt Birnesser 4 2-2 14, Gabe Clement 5 0-0 12, Trey Sautter 1 0-0 2, Ethan Halker 3 0-0 6, Jackson Schroeder 1 0-0 2, Bo Birnesser 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 22 7-8 58; Three-point field goals: 7 (Tayt Birnesser 4, Gabe Clement 2, Blake Reynolds 1); Shooting: 22-41 (7-17 from 3-point); Rebounds: 22 (Ethan Halker 7); Turnovers: 11; Assists: 17 (Blake Reynolds 8); Steals: 4 (Blake Reynolds 2)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved