Cold stretch in second quarter dooms Rams
NORWALK — Upper Sandusky was battling Willard shot for shot early in the second quarter.
The Rams had scored the last nine points to cut Willard’s lead to one point, but then …
“We don’t score,” Upper Sandusky coach Jeff Winslow said.
Winslow was referring to the rest of the second quarter as the Flashes took control.
Willard scored the last 10 points of the second quarter and controlled the rest of the game as the Rams fell 60-36 in a Division III district final at Norwalk High School on Saturday.
“It is tough to think about the good things you do when you finish the year like that,” Winslow said. “If you are going to get beat, you would like to get beat playing your best. We didn’t, so it’s a tough one to think about right now.”
Upper Sandusky finishes at 19-6.
“Part of the problem in the second quarter was we turned it over too much,” Winslow said. “Sometimes we were not even getting a look and then when we got good looks, we did not make them.”
It was the first district final and district title for the Flashes (22-3) since 2006, which was also played against the Rams.
“Our length bothered them,” Willard coach Joe Bedingfield said. “I know they might not have shot it as well as they normally do, but I thought our kids did an excellent job of not allowing them to get a bunch of points.”
Evan Young nailed a 3-pointer and Trevor Clifford scored off an inbound pass to get Upper Sandusky within 20-15 after eight minutes.
Clifford scored on an identical inbound play and Young scored to draw the Rams within a point with 6:53 left in the second quarter, but that is when Upper Sandusky fell apart offensively.
Turnovers consistently hurt the Rams in the second quarter as the Willard offense continued to play well. Terry Baldridge scored five straight points before Cooper Parrott knocked down a shot. Baldridge added a 3 to push the Flashes ahead 30-19. Upper Sandusky had six turnovers in the quarter — giving the Rams 13 turnovers for the half.
“You have to put the ball in the basket,” Winslow said. “You cannot miss layups and wide-open 3s. That is what you have to make to beat (Willard) the way they are playing.”
Mason Vent opened the second half with a triple for the Rams and then stole a pass and was off to the races. Unfortunately for Upper Sandusky, his layup rolled around the rim and out, leading to a Parrott jumper. Davon Triplett scored off an offensive rebound and Parrott hit a 3-pointer, giving Willard a 37-24 lead with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
Later, a reverse layup by Vent cut the Flashes’ lead to 38-28 before Baldridge scored on a putback. On the next play, Vent again had a clear path to a layup, but missed the shot and came down grabbing his leg. He exited the game and Willard led 40-29 after three quarters.
As if things were not trending well for the Rams, early in the fourth quarter, Trevor Clifford took a shot to the face going for a rebound and was relegated to the bench for the rest of the game. Vent returned to the game and his layup cut the margin to single digits again, but it was the closest that Upper Sandusky would get.
Triplett scored off an offensive rebound, Brevon Polachek drilled a 3 off an assist from Parrott, and then Polachek added a layup off an Upper Sandusky turnover to increase the lead to 47-31.
The Rams got as close as 49-36 with 4:54 left, but Willard scored the last 11 points of the game as Upper Sandusky went scoreless the rest of the game.
The Rams topped Willard 83-59 way back on Nov. 30 in Willard.
“I thought we matched up fine with our quickness,” Winslow said. “The first game we put the ball in the basket and we could guard them full-court. This game, we don’t and now they get out and it is harder to guard when you are giving up defensive rebounds.”
Triplett finished with 20 points and nine rebounds, Parrott had 17 points and nine rebounds, and Baldridge added 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“We play a good schedule,” Bedingfield said. “It seems like our schedule prepared us. We knew we were good enough to see them again.”
The game was no doubt physical, but the Rams attempted just four free throws.
“We figured it would be (physical) in the tournament,” Winslow said. “That is how they call it in a tournament game. That is how they called it all tournament and we figured that is how it would be tonight.”
Young paced the Rams with 13 points. Clifford scored eight points, Vent tallied seven and Cameron McCreary scored six — but zero field goals after a 3 less than 90 seconds into the game.
“The seniors led us all year long,” Winslow said. “It was their effort every day in practice or in games. They made sure we were giving effort.”
Upper Sandusky falls to 0-5 all-time in district finals against Willard, while maintaining a 2-1 record against all other teams in district finals.