Eagles soar over Fostoria, Carey drives to sectional crown
FINDLAY The Findlay High School dance team and Liberty-Benton boys basketball team have a lot of similarities Friday night.
Both are fluid, precise and work well as a unit.
One wore sparkly outfits and danced to club music to entertain the crowd. The other clubbed its opponent for a Division III sectional title at Findlay High School.
The Eagles rocked and rolled past Fostoria, 71-19, in the opener while Carey used deep penetration and solid free throw shooting to demolish Elmwood, 60-42.
Fostoria held serve to open its game.
Dominique Fuller hit a bucket a minute and a half into the game to give the Redmen (4-20) an early 2-0 lead. After six misses to open the contest, Liberty-Benton got on the board with a Ryan Geise bucket.
While Fostoria then forced three straight turnovers, the Redmen couldn’t do anything with them. Seemingly done toying with Fostoria, Liberty-Benton took over, scoring 11 straight to close out the quarter.
“We came into the game plan that obviously we wanted to slow things down on them. We ran that to perfection in the first four and a half, five minutes of the game,” Fostoria coach Rick Renz said. “You look up there and it’s 2-2 and everybody in the gym was kind of stunned. I couldn’t have been happier with the way we came out in the beginning. When you hold Liberty to two points for that long in the quarter, you’ve accomplished something. They’re a very good basketball team.”
It continued into the second quarter as Fostoria went 10:13 without scoring. By the time Kaleb Bemis stopped the scoreless skid, it was 23-4. Another 14 straight by the Eagles (22-1) made it 37-4 at halftime.
“Pressure doesn’t usually bother us like it did tonight,” Renz said. “Our guards didn’t make real hard cuts against the press because I think you panic. When you get to the tournament, it’s sudden death and all of a sudden, you’re down 8-2 and that seems like a mountain to climb. I think we just pushed some shots we shouldn’t have (taken) and played right into their hands.”
Liberty-Benton emptied its bench in the fourth quarter. But by that time starters Adam Cytlak (15), Ryan Geise (13) and John Darnall (12) had done their scoring damage.
The entire Liberty-Benton coaching staff left immediately after the game to scout their next opponent and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Fostoria’s Adonis Cousin led the efforts with five points and five rebounds.
“We knew coming in, we couldn’t let them be a transition team and we had to slow them down. We had to force them into a half court game,” Renz said. “We did what we needed to do in the first half of the first quarter. We got beat badly but it wasn’t a lack of effort. It was from a lack of execution.”
In the nightcap, Carey didn’t back down from a team that had a sheer size advantage, both vertically and horizontally.
Carey coach C.J. Kin said that didn’t intimidate his kids.
“We told them that we had to use our quickness and go at their physicalness. (Elmwood’s players) were football type kids,” Kin said. “Our kids didn’t back down. They would go in and get hit, get knocked down and then go back in the next time. It’s a testament to how tough our kids were tonight and I’m very proud of them.”
The Blue Devils (17-7) used its quickness to get by defenders and into the lane for either buckets or trip to the free throw line.
No one was busier at the free throw line than Justin Meek, who scored 14 straight free throws over the third and fourth quarters to help him to 20 points.
“I thought Justin had an outstanding game. He made 14 free throws in a row and when you do that, you win a lot of games,” Kin said.
Elmwood (14-9) trailed by 10 at half, 24-14, but five minutes into the third, it cut the lead to 28-24. But two straight turnovers, steals by Corbin Blair and Zach Boes, allowed Carey to extend its margin and the Royals got no closer the rest of the way.
“We talked about it in our time out that when we made our run, we had to execute,” Traxler said. “We made our run. We got it down to four. We executed a little bit. We got some stops on the defensive end and two straight times, it was a turnover.”
Boes finished with 15 points and Jared Wentling tacked on 11 for Carey.
“When you play a team that has five kids who can handle the ball and defend the ball, you can’t get it to your big guys and that’s what happened,” Traxler said. “We knew they were not a great matchup for us. We’ve struggled mightily all season against teams that have disrupted our ball handlers and not let us utilize our size.”
Kin said the defense was key to the win.
“It starts and ends with the defense,” he said. “On Tuesday, we didn’t play very good defense. We were down early. Tonight we came out and I thought we were pretty physical and that’s what we’ve been lacking all year: that physicalness.”
Elmwood’s Mica Robinson tallied 16 points and Aaron Arnold had 14 in the loss.
“There’s not much to say. We got outplayed, outworked, outexecuted,” Traxler said. “That pretty much sums up the game. We won the jump. I guess we got that going for us, right?”
Liberty-Benton moves on to face Spencerville Thursday at Lima Senior High School at 6:15. Carey will play in the late game against Lima Central Catholic.