There's an old saying that, "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game."
In tournament play, it matters.
If you play the game right, you move on. If you play the game wrong you go home.
On Friday night Carey played the game right and took down Hopewell-Loudon, 71-54. Zach Boes led the Blue Devils with 20 points and eight rebounds but it was much more of a team victory, coach CJ Kin said.
"We turned up the heat. As a team our team defense got much better, we got in the passing lanes, we got a couple traps, and some lay ups" Kin said. "When we do those types of things and run around like that we're able to extend our lead and score a lot of points."
A team effort that saw three Blue Devils put up double digit points.
Alongside Boes, Jared Wentling put up 16 points and Bryan Powers tossed in 11. While putting up points is always a good thing, equally as important is the ability to stop your opponent from doing the same.
"We wanted to concentrate on (Ryan) Lommerse. He's such a hard player to guard. He's able to go inside, outside, he handles the ball well," Kin said. "He still had an outstanding game, but I feel that we made him work for everything he got."
Despite Carey's best efforts, Lommerse still led the Chieftains with 29 points and six rebounds.
Unfortunately for Hopewell-Loudon there's only one Lommerse on its team. Garret Sendelbach was able to toss in an additional 12 points, while Gauge Sadler connected for seven.
Coach Adam Smith says speed was the difference maker.
"They are a slightly better team, but if we could control the ball we knew we could contend with them," Smith said. "They are just so fast, that speed, they are so quick at every position they can trap all over the court and still get back to cover the open man, they are an extremely athletic group."
It wasn't the loss that bothered the Chieftains but more so the way they lost. Coach Smith believes his group of kids are much better than what appears on the game's stat sheet.
"This was a bad representation of the team that we have become." Smith said. "We set the school record for most MAL victories in a season, we tied for the most overall wins in the last 30 plus years, so we're not going to let one night ruin our perception of this season."
As Hopewell-Loudon heads home, Carey looks forward to its next test, Lima Central Catholic. While this is no "up the road" rivalry, Carey and Lima Central Catholic do have a history.
"We met them last year and they beat us pretty good," Kin said. "We'll get back to work we know what to expect this year and hopefully we'll handle the situation a lot better"
Sometimes it doesn't matter if you know how to play the game right, especially when you're facing a team that won't allow that to happen. For Lakota, that team was Liberty-Benton.
Raiders' coach Tim Walsh knew exactly what had foiled his teams tournament hopes.
"Its all about Liberty-Benton being that good," Walsh said. "Their defense is phenomenal, they don't miss very many shots and when you combine those two things you don't lose very often."
For Liberty-Benton, the combination of those skills forced 32 turnovers that led to a commanding 89-27 victory over Lakota. John Darnall led the Eagles with 23 points. Zach Garver tossed in 11 while Adam Cytlak added 10 and Brandon May led the team with nine boards. In tournament play the stakes are higher and for Liberty-Benton coach Steve Williman, execution of his game plan led to great success.
"We wanted to take them out of their comfort zone," Williman said. "We wanted to trap or double team and try to get the tempo going a bit faster. I thought we did a good job, our defense helped us get some easy transition baskets, and run the floor."
A loss is never easy to handle, especially when it comes in such a dominating fashion but coach Walsh believes it's best to accentuate the positives.
"When you do advance in a tournament it just stings that much more when you lose," Walsh said. "So we needed emphasize the good things, like the fact that we made it to this point, and we just have to give credit to Liberty-Benton they're a really good team."
Lakota was led by Dakota Bowling's nine points. Casey Monroe added six, while Colin Timmons tossed in five and Kyle Below lead the team in rebounds with seven.
As Lakota's season comes to an end, coach Walsh reflects on the time he has spent with his seniors.
"These seniors have been there for everything, not just during the season but also during the off season. They are there for the little kids basketball camp even in the summer they have always been available," Walsh said. "Thats what its all about, to have that commitment, these kids have grown so much since eighth grade, and it really shows. I appreciate all the time these guys have put in, I have really enjoyed working with them."
For Liberty-Benton their tournament hopes stay alive. With the stakes higher and no second chances, Each game becomes that much more difficult to win. Knowing all of these things, coach Williman and his kids look forward to the challenge.
"We're going to Ohio Northern and that district always has great teams, theres great competition and for us to advance in the tournament we have to play at our very best," Williman said. "Everyone that we face is a great basketball team and I'm sure our kids are ready for the challenge."