OPS was on hand for some great hoop action at UD Arena.

March Madness kicked off this afternoon with Manhatten taking it to Florida, but March Mania has been going on in Ohio for several weeks.  The OHSAA boys basketball tournament is arguably the most exciting and talent rich tournament in the country and tonight at University of Dayton Arena it was back in action.  The Southwest District Regional semi-finals set the Sycamore Aviators against the Big Blue of Hamilton and the Lancers of LaSalle against the red hot Springfield South Wildcats.

The Aviators and Big Blue started things off in the early game and it appeared the Aviators may have been confused about that start time.  While the Big Blue came out on fire scoring 20 points in the first frame, the Aviators struggled with only 2 field goals.  Hamilton's suffocating defense held Sycamore scoreless the first 2:30 of the quarter when Sycamore's Brad Konerman hit a three to break the drought.  The Big Blue finished the quarter with a 15 point advantage, having no problem with the Aviator man-to-man defense, leading 20-5.

The Aviators started out on a different note and a zone defense in the second scoring the first 7 points of the quarter to cut the lead to 8.  At the 5:50 mark Coach Larry Allen called a thirty second timeout to settle his team, but right out of the timeout Sycamore's Mario Kirkendall hit another three to cut the lead to five.  The Aviators did not let up the rest of the way, battling back to make it a 4 point game at the half.  At the half, Hamilton led 33-29, but Sycamore had outscored the Big Blue 24 – 13 in the second frame and clearly had the momentum edge heading into the locker room.

Both teams came out of halftime with an energy that you can only find when basketball teams play in March.  The Aviators continued their charge bombing away from three point land.  At the 6:13 mark, Scott Langhorne's three point shot gave the Aviators their first lead, 36-34, and Hamilton immediately took a time out.  The lead went back and forth with several ties, but eventually Hamilton regained the edge.  The Big Blue pulled ahead during the last minute pushing the lead back to five, 47-42.

The Big Blue were able to maintain and extend the lead during the fourth. By the 2:32 mark Hamilton had an eight point advantage, 57-49.  Inside the one minute mark the lead was nine for the Big Blue, 62-53.  Sycamore made a tremendous run to get back in the game after a disastrous first quarter, but ultimately the Big Blue was too much.  Hamilton advances to the Regional final 65-55. 

Latez Williams, Adam Myers-White, Jason Miller and Brandon Lampley all scored in double digits for the Big Blue.  Myers-White and Miller led with 15 a piece.  Miller also grabbed 11 rebounds in the win.  Junior point guard Mike Kimmey scored 18 in the Aviator loss.

The second game of the night pitted two of the state's hottest teams against one another as LaSalle took on Springfield South.  AND THEY'RE OFF! 

Anyone who has followed either of these teams knows that each loves dictate the tempo of the game by playing suffocating defense and getting out on the break.  When both teams try to set this pace it makes for one exciting game.  LaSalle coach, Dave Flemming, utilizes every player on his roster and presses the entire game, and tonight was no different.  However, the Wildcats seemed to welcome it as they broke the press and worked for easy baskets.  South grabbed an early lead and held it through the first quarter, 23-17.

The second quarter went off at the same pace until coach Flemming called a thirty second timeout with 4:41 remaining.  Wildcat coach, Larry Hamm, took the opportunity to speak to the officials after several calls were made against the Wildcats.  The discussion was not lively, but the South fans made sure the referees knew they disagreed with their last few calls.  LaSalle came out of the timeout and scored four unanswered to cut the lead to two.  But the Wildcats stormed back not letting up against the relentless Lancer pressure. 

South held a 7 point lead as time wound down in the second and pushed it to 10 when James Cooper hit a three just before the buzzer sounded, 43-33.  The pace of the game was unbelievable.  At the half the biggest question seemed to be whether South was going to be able to keep pace.  The main difference was South's three point shooting.  They were 7 of 12 in the quarter including a 4-7 effort from Jabriel Thomas.

South did not miss a beat in the third quarter and you could tell that Coach Hamm has a strong conditioning program.  The highlight of the quarter came with 2:57 remaining when St. Bonaventure signee, Isiah Carson, made a perfect alley oop pass to Von Davis who seemed to come out of orbit to throw down a monster jam.  That pushed the South lead to 14, 55-41.  South was simply relentless never losing it under the constant pressure they kept pushing the ball through the press getting transition baskets and playing remarkable defense.  Ultimately, LaSalle was held to three points the entire quarter while the Wildcats pushed the lead to 17, 62-45.

LaSalle made it clear that, to win the game, the Wildcats would have to make their free throws.  By the mid point of the fourth quarter the Lancer pressure was finally catching up to South and you could tell their players were getting tired.  LaSalle charged back taking advantage of a beleaguered South squad and drew to within 5 at the 1:30 mark off a Ray Ruberg three pointer, 70-75.  South awoke and reached down deep and scored two baskets before another three from Darenn Mansoor of LaSalle.  39.5 remaining, South ball, South lead 79-73.  This is what tournament time is all about.

South breaks the press and James Cooper is fouled.  He makes one of two.  A quick three point shot and miss from LaSalle, rebound South and they hit their free throws to seal the deal.  The cherry on the top for South came with another Carson to Davis alley-oop dunk as time expired.  Springfield South Wildcats defeat the LaSalle Lancers 84-75.

There were several impressive performances in the game.  Two Wildcats finished with double doubles.  Junior forward Nate Miller had 15 boards to go with 15 points and Isiah Carson had 14 points to go along with 10 assists.  It's a good thing Carson was shelling out those assist because had he not hit Von David on the two dunks, its possible Davis would have jumped clear out of UD Arena.  Davis finished with a career high 20.  Two more Wildcats scored in double digits, James Cooper and Jabriel Thomas had 13 and 16 respectively.  Zach Welter of LaSalle scored 22 for the Lancers and pulled down 8 boards in the loss.


Division IIIWright State Regional Semi-Final Scores


Cincinnati Reading        54

Ripley Union                 43


Versailles                      51

Bloom-Carroll              43


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