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Jays lose heart-breaker in D-4 Regional final PDF Print E-mail
Monday, March 18, 2013 9:47 AM


KETTERING — When two teams are closely-matched, like St. John’s and Troy Christian are, you can expect a battle to the end.

That is what the near-capacity crowd at James S. Trent Arena on the campus of Kettering Fairmont High School got Friday night in a Division IV Regional final.


It came down to a late foul call on the Blue Jays that gave Grant Zawadzki a chance to win the game at the free-throw line and lift the Eagles to a 51-49 heart-stopper over the Blue and Gold.


The Eagles (26-2) advance to take on Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph’s at 10:45 a.m. Thursday in the Division IV State semifinals at The Scott.

The Eagles had battled back from a 10-point deficit — 32-22 — in the third period to only trail 39-38 to commence the finale. They continued their rally into the fourth, using an 8-1 spurt to tie for their biggest lead of the game — 46-40 — on a deuce by Spencer Thomas at the 5-minute mark. Back came the Jays (20-6), jump-started by a triple from junior Ryan Koester at 4:36. Sophomore Andy Grothouse (9 markers) hit a tough layin at 3:56, followed by two singles at 3:32, to give the Jays a 47-46 edge. Logan George hit his only bucket and points of the night at 3:19 to give the Eagles the edge by one, only to have St. John’s senior Ryan Buescher (14 markers, 14 boards, 4 blocks) a transition drive at 3:11 to give the Jays their last lead at 49-48. Those would turn out to be the last points of the 2012-13 season for the Jays.

Down the stretch, they turned it over twice, with the Eagles tying the game at 49 on 1-of-2 free throws by Grant Zawadzki (12 markers, 7 assists, 4 boards) at 2:00. The Jays missed two chances at the rim in the next 30 ticks and the Eagles got the miss. They ran the clock down and got the ball into the hands of the sophomore point guard Zawadzki. With time winding down, he got a ball screen near the top of the key and went up for a shot; he was ruled to have been fouled by the Jays’ defender shooting a three, to the consternation of the Jays’ partisans and the delight of the Eagles’. He sank two out of the three with 3.0 showing on the clock. The Jays took a timeout and set up a play. Going the length of the floor, they inbounded to Buescher at the free-throw line, who passed ahead to senior Curtis Geise (17 markers, 6 boards, 3 dimes). His 40-footer from the right side hit the front of the rim but caromed away as time expired.

“It’s a rough way to lose a game. I don’t disagree with the foul call; he got him on the arm,” St. John’s coach Aaron Elwer explained. “At the same time, we set up a play we work on during late-game situational practice and felt we ran it pretty well. It just didn’t go. That was kind of the story of our shooting all night. I felt we executed our offense most of the night well and got a lot of quality shots that we’d been hitting the last couple of months; they just didn’t go down. That’s basketball.”

Troy Christian coach Ray Zawadzki got just what he wanted, too.

“Our goal is always to [protect the ball and when St. John’s sat back in their zone late, we decided to hold it,” he explained. “As time drained down, we just decided to put the ball in Grant’s hands; he makes good decisions with the ball, either getting a good shot for himself or passing it to an open teammate. We got that ball screen and that freed him up enough to force a foul.”

The Jays had trouble dealing with the quick dribble-drive offense of the Eagles in the early going as Troy Christian got off quickly; an 11-4 edge on a fall-away turnaround by Zawadzki from the right elbow at 4:26. The Jays began to get a handle on things defensively and held the Eagles to a Zawadzki single (1:35) the rest of the period. On the other end, they rallied with a 9-1 spurt to close the stanza, getting a triple from the top of the key by Grothouse with 39 ticks on the board, for a 13-12 edge.

“We were concerned with their quickness offensively coming in and they gave us trouble early. We had to adjust to it and we did, as I knew the kids would,” Elwer said.

The Eagles hit a pair of early long balls in the second stanza as part of an 8-1 spurt to take a 20-14 edge on a triple of Christian Salazar (14 markers, 4 boards) halfway through the stanza. Again, the Jays had the answer, running off an 11-2 span in the next four minutes — with Buescher leading the way with seven of them — to get a 25-20 edge on his 3-point play at 40.6 ticks. Salazar hit a jump hook — off a nice set — in the paint with 5.1 ticks showing to get his team within 25-22 at the half.

The Jays seemed on the verge of taking command in the third, working their way to the largest margin of the game — 32-22 — on an inside basket by senior Seth Bockey at 4:53, forcing the Eagles to call a halt. They responded well, commenced by a 3-ball by Nathan Kirkpatrick (15 counters, 4 steals) and even including a high-banked triple from the left corner by Salazar. When Zawadzki hit two tosses at 3.3 ticks, the Eagles had closed within 39-38.

“We knew even up 10 it wasn’t over; you don’t get this far without having a tough mental attitude. Give credit where credit is due; the didn’t fold,” Elwer added. “That’s a very tough locker room in there right now; there are 14 guys that are hurting badly because they knew what was at stake. We were a step away from the ultimate goal of a season. We lose the four seniors (Geise, Buescher, Bockey and Cole Fischbach) and it’s not just as players; they are fine kids. They’ve put in a lot of time as a great example for our younger guys.”

Coach Zawadzki pointed to that key rally as the microcosm of the season.

“That is the way we’ve done it all year; we have a never-give-up mentality,” he added. “We kept reminding the kids about the things we build our program around and they showed a lot of toughness there. St. John’s was one team I didn’t want to play here; I have so much respect for the MAC and their program.”

In sum, Troy Christian dropped in 18-of-42 shots, 5-of-15 beyond the arc, for 42.9 percent and 10-of-13 free shots (76.9%); grabbed 20 rebounds (6 offensive) as Holden Varvel added four; and added 10 turnovers and 13 fouls.

The Jays netted 17-of-48 fielders, 3-of-16 beyond the arc, for 35.4 percent and 12-of-17 singles (70.6%); tracked down 30 misses, 11 offensive, as Koester added four; and totaled 11 fouls and 11 miscues.

Pictured: St. John's junior Ryan Koester and senior Curtis Geise attempt to control and offensive rebound as TC's Christian Salazar tries to keep the ball alive Friday night in Regional final action at Kettering Fairmont.



Matthew Coots 0-0-0-0, Holden Varvel 1-0-0-2, Spencer Thomas 3-0-0-6, Logan George 1-0-0-2, Nathan Kirkpatrick 2-3-2-15, Nathanael Boone 0-0-0-0, Christian Salazar 4-2-14, Grant Zawadzki 2-0-8-12. Totals 13-5-10/13-51.

ST. JOHN’S (49)

Andy Grothouse 2-1-2-9, Ryan Buescher 6-0-2-14, Eric Clark 1-0-0-2, Ryan Koester 1-1-0-5, Curtis Geise 2-1-7-16, Evan Hays 0-0-1-1, Seth Bockey 2-0-0-4. Totals 14-3-12/17-49.

Score by Quarters:

Troy Christ. 12 10 16 13 - 51

St. John’s 13 12 14 10 - 49

Three-point goals: Troy Christian 5-15, St. John’s 3-16.


Last Updated on Monday, March 18, 2013 10:37 AM

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