Clifford leads Rams to title; Columbian ousted by Wildcats

MOUNT BLANCHARD There’s the thrill of victory and the agony of loss and on Friday night, both were felt by the same team in the Division II sectional finals at Riverdale High School.

Upper Sandusky’s Cody Clifford poured in 18 points for the Rams, leading his team to a 60-46 defeat of Otsego.

After the pictures were snapped and the nets were cut, the emotion of the week came out as Clifford shed some tears. The junior’s mother, Tammy Clifford, died Monday.

Upper Sandusky coach Jeff Winslow said his point guard wasn’t going to sit this one out.

“Cody said his mom would want him to keep playing and win a sectional title and not sit around and sulk,” Winslow said. “He’s a tough son-of-a-gun, just like his father.”

In the night cap, Columbian was bounced from the tourney by Kenton, who won their first sectional crown since 2009 with a 48-45 victory.

While the Tornadoes game was closer, the spotlight of the night shown on the opening game.

Usually the team’s third scoring option, Clifford poured in 18 and led his team in rebounds as well with six.

“I can’t say enough about how this team came together in the last couple of weeks,” Winslow said. “We had a tough week with Cody’s mom passing away.”

Otsego held a 6-4 lead early in the game but a Cody Collins 3-pointer made it 7-6 and Upper Sandusky (12-11) never looked back.

The Rams led 16-12 after the first quarter and parlayed a 15-0 run in the second quarter into a 33-17 lead at halftime.

“They were hungrier than we were tonight,” Otsego coach Jim Bostdorff said. “I did not like our effort at all in the first half. I just didn’t feel we were busting it to get to either end of the floor. Arguably their best player (Wes Vent) was on the bench with foul trouble and we didn’t capitalize on that at all.”

Otsego (10-14) looked like a completely different team than it did on Wednesday when the Knights jousted Fostoria from the tourney. On this night however, the shots wouldn’t fall as Otsego was 17 of 50 from the field, including 1 of 15 from 3-point range in the first three quarters.

“That’s kind of been Otsego this year. We’ve been very, very schizophrenic and I don’t know who shows up from night to night. I wish I knew how to make that happen,” Bostdorff said. “We’ve had games where we’re just a totally different team. I’d love to tell you the answer because if I did, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you right now about this. We just struggled out the gate and it was a struggle all night long.”

Jalen Myers lit up the Rams for 22 and Schyler Scherff for 17, leaving just two other players to reach the scoring column. One that didn’t was John Thomas, one of Otsego’s key post players.

“He’s one of the guys if we’re going to be successful, he’s got to get into the book and he didn’t have a good night tonight,” Bostdorff said.

Brad Roeder scored 12 and Seth Frey added 11 for the Rams.

The Columbian-Kenton game turned out to be far more competitive.

But the two schools showed why they’re better known for being football schools than basketball schools. In a very physical game, the two clubs clawed and clubbed and beat their way to the basket nearly every possession. The result was 31 fouls, 22 turnovers and a lot of missed shots.

“The game was really, really physical. It was a basketball game of two football schools, two football teams, to put it mildly,” Columbian coach Bill Beaston said. “We don’t see that kind of physical play in our schedule, in our league, but I thought our kids handled it really well. We weren’t flustered by it. I don’t think we had a ton of turnovers due to that physicalness. Things just didn’t go our way and sometimes in basketball, life and other things that’s just the way it goes. We just ended up a play short.”

The last missed shot came off the fingers of Matt Zirger. Columbian trailed 48-45 with 1.5 seconds left and had the ball. After the teams exchanged timeouts to plan strategy for the inbounds play, the ball was inbounded to Josh Flint who was blanketed. He dished to Zirger but his shot was altered by a Kenton defender and the game was over.

“It just wasn’t our night. It wasn’t a case of bad shots. We had shots we wanted. They just didn’t fall,” Beaston said. “Sometimes it’s your night. Tonight wasn’t ours.”

Kenton’s defense flustered Columbian’s shooters all night. They blanketed the Tornadoes (12-11), holding them to 17 of 43 shooting, including 3 of 14 from outside the arc.

“That was one of our focuses all week: to limit their dribble penetration, help out on screens and make them shoot from the outside, which we did but they got some offensive putbacks which hurt us early,” Kenton coach Matt McCullough said. “Even at the end it got us a few times. That’s something we have to emphasize this week if we want to move on in the tournament.”

Tiffin beat Kenton (8-14) on the glass by a 32-31 margin but eight of Columbian’s offensive boards resulted in no points.

“I’m just pleased with the guys’ effort. It started this week in practice. The guys were focused and we had one of best weeks all year in practice,” McCullough said. “We’ve been preaching all year that this is where we want to get. We got a late start to the season. Hopefully we’re peaking at the right time.”

Matt Bahr had 13 points to lead Kenton, who captured just their fourth sectional title in school history. ?Derek Dryfuse finished his season with a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Donavan Walker had 10 points in his final game as a Tornado.

Beaston said the four seniors, Walker, Isiah Moore, Flint and Spencer Pauly will be missed.

“The one thing I told those guys in the locker room is that I’ve never had a group that competes the way this group does and that’s solely on these four seniors,” Beaston said. “It didn’t matter if it was practice, if it was games, what the situation, these guys competed. That’s a hell of a characteristic to have. That’s a heck of a trait to pass on to people and have labeled for you. Those four are going to do great things in life because they’re competitors, whether its jobs or college or sports in college. They’re going to make a difference in their life and in others because they’re competitors and I really appreciate that.”

Kenton moves on to face Elida at 6:15 Wednesday at Liberty-Benton. Upper Sandusky will tangle with a different Western Buckeye League opponent in Bath. That’s the second game Wednesday at Liberty-Benton.