Luzader leads remarkable Carey comeback

NORWALK — Cody Luzader isn’t offended that people have a problem pronouncing his last name.

If you go to five different basketball games, you’re likely to hear it said five different ways by public address announcers.

But Luzader said it doesn’t bother him.

“It happens all the time,” Carey’s senior point guard said. “Funny thing about that is, at our home football games, this has been my fourth year playing varsity football, they still get it wrong at home football games. So I’m used to it.”

For the record, the name is pronounced “Luh-ZADD-er.”

And after what he did in Thursday night’s Division III district semifinal against Oak Harbor, there’s another way to say it:

Brilliant.

Luzader scored 28 points — and was an incredible 11 of 12 from the foul line in the fourth quarter — leading a furious Blue Devil rally, and a 56-49 win over the Rockets.

“(Cody) kept us in the game,” said Blue Devils coach Jamie Young, himself a Carey graduate. “And then, everybody just fed off Cody.”

It’s Carey’s first trip to the district finals since 2010. The Blue Devils have not won a district title.

After Carey dug a huge hole in the first half — the Blue Devils trailed the Rockets 22-5 after Aric McAtee’s layup with 6:20 left in the second quarter — Luzader got going.

And he brought his team back.

Carey started the game 2 of 17 shooting, but Trey Bame broke the skid with a 3 from the left corner. Then Luzader hit a 3 from the left side to make it 22-11. After the teams exchanged baskets, Luzader connected from the right wing to make it 24-16. A little more than a minute later, he hit his third 3 of the quarter, and Oak Harbor’s lead was down to 25-19. And then, with the clock winding down on the half, Luzader made a steal and raced the other way, completing a fastbreak layup just before the halftime buzzer.

Carey trailed only 27-22. The Blue Devils and their fans were energized.

The Rockets were not.

“It was a little deflating for us, for some reason,” Oak Harbor coach Eric Sweet said. “We’ve played against kids who have (had great games), but for some reason, tonight, when he got rhythm, it changed the momentum of the game, and we never got it back.”

In fact, things were going so well for Carey at the break that Young opted against giving a speech.

“At halftime, I didn’t say anything,” Young said. “I had all the seniors talking, and I only had to say a few things, just to summarize what they were saying. So when they came out, they were focused, ready to go.”

Yes, they were. Bame started the third by making a 3 from the wing, and after a stop, Summit tied the game at 27 with a layup. The Rockets quickly regained the lead on a Tate Smith basket, but Bame had an answer.

His 3 — this one from the left corner — gave the Blue Devils their first lead, 30-29. Five and a half minutes remained in the third.

Carey never again surrendered the lead. The third went back and forth, but the Blue Devils went to the final quarter up 37-36.

“We’ve got a lot of experience with a lot of returners — we’ve played some tight games this year,” Luzader said. “Throughout our careers, we’ve had a lot of tight games. And you can definitely tell that showed tonight.”

It wasn’t easy. Carey’s standout post player, Hayden Stone, was on the bench for much of the second half with foul trouble, and picked up his fourth early in the fourth quarter. Stone finished with six points and nine rebounds. Summit finished with six points, but did a solid job on the boards, with six. And Bame came up big with 13 points.

But the Blue Devils’ ability to hold on was due mostly to their ability to hang on to the ball. They only turned the ball over twice in the fourth quarter when they slowed down the offense and faced pressure. And they made their foul shots. With Luzader leading the way, Carey went 15 of 19 from the stripe in the fourth, and finished 17 of 23 overall.

Stone’s layup with 6:58 left in regulation was the Blue Devils’ last field goal. But Carey was strong enough at the line to finish off the Rockets.

The biggest free throws may have come with 48 seconds remaining. Facing a 1-and-1 and with his team clinging to a 48-46 lead, Luzader missed a free throw, but Oak Harbor was called for a lane violation.

Given another chance, Luzader made two straight foul shots.

“He wants the ball at the end of the game, when the game is on the line,” Young said. “And I want him to have the ball. And so do his teammates.”

Smith had 17 points for the Rockets, and Joe Alexander had 14. Oak Harbor ended 19-4.

Carey improved to 19-6 and will face Margaretta, who outlasted Huron 84-82 in six overtimes in the second game at Norwalk Thursday.

Carey and Margaretta will play here at 1:30 p.m. Saturday for the district title.

“We know if we come and play our game, we can win,” Luzader said.

And there’s no confusion about that.

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