Blue Devils claim first district title
CAREY — One thing that stood out about Carey was clear after the Division III district tournament in Norwalk.
It doesn’t quit.
It didn’t matter if the Blue Devils trailed 22-5 in Thursday’s semifinals against Oak Harbor.
And it didn’t matter when Carey was holding a nearly insurmountable lead in the last minute of regulation against Margaretta in Saturday’s finals.
Up 37-31 and with less than 30 seconds left, Carey’s Brayden Wentling stood at the foul line for a 1-and-1.
With a reasonably comfortable lead, Blue Devils coach Jamie Young had the rest of his players stay out of the lane for defensive purposes.
So when Wentling missed the foul shot, there was no one else from Carey to get the rebound.
It didn’t matter. Wentling ran to his left, snagged the rebound and was fouled.
Wentling then made his first foul shot, but missed the second one. Again — with no Blue Devil in the lane — he got the rebound and was fouled.
Wentling made the next two foul shots, clinching what became a 41-31 win for Carey.
“We’ve got athletes. A lot of athletes and a lot of grit,” Carey point guard Cody Luzader said. “Every person on this team, whether they sit the bench, never see the floor, or never come off the floor, everybody wants to win.”
Carey improved to 20-6, and earned the program’s first district title. It will play in its first regional game Wednesday in Bowling Green.
“I’m really excited for the seniors,” said Young, a Carey graduate. “Any win we can get for these seniors is a bonus for this season, so I’m really excited for those guys, and our program in all.”
While Carey pulled away late, the first three quarters were an offensive struggle for both teams. The Blue Devils led 11-10 after the first quarter, and trailed 19-18 at the half.
Some of Carey’s troubles were created by fouls. By halftime, Wentling, Hayden Stone, Casey Crawford and Griffin Summit all had two fouls, and spent considerable time on the bench.
So to have those issues and only be down a point, Young said he felt fortunate.
“We talked about when we went in (for halftime), ‘we’re OK. Everything’s OK,'” Young said. “‘Just go out there, clean up a few things, and move our feet on defense.'”
The Green Bears led for a good portion of the third quarter, and went up 23-20 on a Mitch Raifsnider bucket with 4:55.
But Carey’s Trey Bame drained a left-side 3 on the Blue Devils’ ensuing possession, and then Stone — who ended with a team-high 15 points — was fouled on a basket. He missed the foul shot, but Carey led 27-25.
And moments later, Stone scored again in the post, putting the Blue Devils up 29-25. They went to the fourth leading 29-27.
“Sometimes we have our slow starts,” said Bame, who finished with 11 points. “A team that plays good defense like that, coach was saying, ‘Make sure we get the best shot.'”
Carey’s defense shined in the fourth quarter, allowing a single field goal and two free throws. Meanwhile, big baskets by Stone and Summit pushed the Carey lead.
Margaretta (13-13) finished 10 of 28 shooting, and missed all eight 3s it attempted. Green Bears coach Steve Keller acknowledged that his players may have been tired. They were playing less than 48 hours after an exhausting six-overtime win over Huron. Bailey Kimberlin led Margaretta with 12 points Saturday, but all came in the first half.
“I will tell you, I think we were a little fatigued, but we kept battling,” Keller said. “Carey did a nice job, they’re a good basketball team, so congratulations to them.”
Luzader, a senior who finished with nine points, added some perspective to his team’s win afterward.
“Pretty excited to finally get this done this year,” he said. “My first three years on varsity, we never won a tournament game. For this to happen my senior year, it’s pretty exciting.”