KETTERING — The Tri-Village boys basketball team secured its first trip to the state final four since 1991 by beating Marion Local 62-44 in a regional championship game Friday night at Kettering’s Trent Arena.
The game was close for the first three periods, but Tri-Village outscored Marion Local 22-6 in the fourth quarter to reach the final four of the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament for just the second time in program history.
“It’s a surreal feeling right now,” Tri-Village coach Josh Sagester said. “I’m just proud of our players, and the way they performed on this platform is phenomenal.”
It wasn’t an easy victory against the Midwest Athletic Conference champion Flyers, who feature 6-foot 10-inch junior Luke Knapke, 6-foot 7-inch junior Ryan Bruns and 6-foot 6-inch senior Adam Bertke, who all match or exceed the height of the Patriots’ tallest player, 6-foot 6-inch senior Tyler Cook.
It took time to get acclimated to Marion’s size, Sagester said, which contributed to a slow start for Tri-Village.
“It definitely played a factor,” he said. “You can’t simulate their size. You can only hold so many broomsticks in practice to simulate that.”
With Marion Local’s length making it hard to find openings, Tri-Village slowed down the game in the first quarter, which resulted in an 8-5 lead for the Flyers at the end of the opening period. Tri-Village only got a bucket from Damion Cook and a 3-pointer from Colton Linkous in the opening eight minutes.
The normally fast-paced Patriots aren’t accustomed to playing that slow, but they thought it was their best chance to combat the Flyers’ size advantage, Sagester said.
“If you stood where I was standing there weren’t a whole lot of shots from their length,” he said. “So I looked at coach and said we’re going to have trouble with some shots right now, so I thought, hey, let’s pull it out a little bit, let’s see if they’ll spread a little bit and get them a little bit more in scramble mode and maybe again create some more crevasses for us to attack because they were pretty much packing that thing in to take away big (Tyler) Cook. Again, I didn’t see a whole lot of shots in that first quarter.”
In the second quarter more scoring opportunities began to open up for Tri-Village, which resulted in a 21-17 advantage for the Patriots in the period and a 26-25 halftime lead. The duo of Damion Cook and Linkous led the way with 21 first-half points while Tyler Cook and Tyler VanWinkle added to the scoring.
“We made perimeter shots,” Sagester said. “I thought we did a good job of rebounding the basketball. We obviously made free throws tonight.”
The game remained close in the third quarter with Tri-Village outscoring Marion Local by one point in the period, 14-13, to increase its lead to 40-38.
The Patriots had to be junkyard dogs, Sagester said, fighting to get loose balls and 50/50 balls against the big, athletic Flyer squad.
“We knew we were outsized in the paint a little bit, but we talked about just being tough, nasty and physical,” Sagester said. “I thought our kids did a good job with that.”
While the first three quarters had been close, Tri-Village was able to control the pace of the game, especially in the fourth quarter when it outscored Marion Local 22-6.
“We were having trouble getting some shots with the length of their zone,” Sagester said. “We talked about being patient. I thought they spread out a little bit, which gave us a few more creases and had a chance to run a couple sets and fortunately a couple of our guys stepped up and made some big plays.”
Tri-Village outscored Marion 9-1 in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter to extend its lead to 10 points, 49-39. The Flyers never got enough offense going to get back in the game, and the Patriots sank their free throws to seal the 62-44 victory and advance to the final four for the first time in 23 years.
“It really hasn’t set in a whole lot,” Sagester said. “We put in a lot of hours with Tri-Village basketball, our kids, our parents, our community. To get this reward is phenomenal.”
Tri-Village’s 1991 trip to state and the girls basketball team’s to state in 2012 helped give the Patriots confidence that they could reach the state tournament in Columbus, Sagester said.
“There’s a lot of communities, a lot of teams that talk about it, and it’s really just a pipedream,” he said. “But our kids, our community think that’s an expectation, and we know we can achieve it.”
Damion Cook led Tri-Village with a game-high 24 points in the victory. Also for the Patriots, Linkous scored 19 points, Tyler Cook scored eight, VanWinkle scored six, Mason McCabe scored three, and Knox Morris scored two.
Cole Griesdorn led Marion Local with 13 points in the loss. Also for the Flyers, Bertke scored 11 points, Bruns scored 10, Dustin Seitz scored six, and Dustin Rethman scored four. Marion’s 6-foot 10-inch Knapke was held to zero points.
Tri-Village is the first Cross County Conference boys basketball team to advance to the state final four since Bethel won the Division IV state title in 2001.
Tri-Village will play 27-0 Convoy Crestview at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Ohio State’s Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus in the state semifinals, with the winner advancing to Saturday’s state championship game. Crestview finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in Division IV by The Associated Press, the only team ranked higher than No. 2 Tri-Village.