“They’ve been playing a lot better at the end of the season, and they’re a totally different team than when we first played them,” said Alter coach Eric Coulter.
The Knights (15-8) beat the Eagles 62-40 in December in the Eagles’ second game, which came after a Covid layoff. CJ won the second meeting 66-65 on Jan. 30.
Game three was nothing like the first two. CJ jumped out to an 11-0 lead, then got up 31-12 before settling for a 31-17 lead at the half. CJ coach Charlie Szabo said it was the Eagles’ best half this season.
“We knew how big this game was for us, so we knew we had to come out with a lot of effort and just be ready,” said CJ freshman Jonathan Powell, who scored a game-high 25 points.
Powell and junior Luke Chandler each made four 3-pointers and the Eagles made 10 as a team. Chandler scored 14 points, and Solomon added 10 points and two 3-pointers.
“To beat us and the matchup zone that we’ve had for many, many years, you have to shoot the ball well,” Coulter said. “They shot the ball really well.”
When CJ led 51-42 with over four minutes to play, Alter started fouling. The Eagles shot 56 percent from the foul line this year, so the Knights started by fouling junior Kylan Tucker who had made only five of 15 free throws this season. Tucker made five of six in the quarter, Powell made seven of eight and the Eagles made 15 of 20 as a team in the fourth.
“It was really big of those kids to step up and hit them,” Szabo said. “We preach being strong at the end of the game and closing out games. It’s very satisfying at this stage that we pulled that off.”
Szabo was pleased with the defense. He said in the first Alter game his players struggled to guard the Knights, but he’s seen improvement.
“This was our best example of actually sitting down, being fundamentally sound and competing every possession,” he said.
AJ Leen led Alter with 19 points, Anthony Ruffolo had 14 and Jacob Conner and Gavin Geisel had 10 apiece.
Trotwood-Madison 70, Oakwood 62: Rocky Rockhold’s roster isn’t the same as it was at the start of the Rams’ season – which was early January – so he’s still trying to figure it out. One thing he saw Friday night that he liked was balanced scoring.
Tymier Blanton and Tim Carpenter scored 15 points apiece and Damontay Raglin and Anthony McComb scored 13 apiece. McComb is a guard, the others are forwards. McComb, who transferred from Thurgood Marshall, averaged 26 a game this season and had a run of seven straight game of 30 points or more.
“We’re better off balanced because we’re getting it from our inside guys,” Rockhold said. “Teams have really keyed in on Anthony. And I think he hit a wall a little bit. We’re asking him to do things that he hasn’t done in his entire career – really get out and pressure and play full court for 32 minutes. At Thurgood he didn’t have to play that way and they had a little deeper bench.”
The top-seeded Rams (10-6) will play in the district final on March 6 against Cincinnati McNicholas.
Oakwood (17-7) hadn’t won a tournament game since 2016 and won two this year. The Lumberjacks were led by sophomore Will Maxwell with 21 points, junior Keon Wright with 16 and junior Jack Epley with 10.
*** Also in D-II on Friday, second-seed Tippecanoe beat Carroll 51-42 to advance. The Red Devils (20-1) face the winner of Saturday night’s Ross-Indian Hill game in the district finals on March 6.