Boys basketball: Jackson Center back in regional final for second straight season

Jackson Center is back in the Division IV basketball regional finals for the second straight season.

Aidan Reichert had a game-high 18 points and Garrett Prenger added 11 as the Tigers beat Cincinnati Christian 40-30 in a regional semifinal game on Tuesday night at UD Arena.

Jackson Center (21-6) will play Columbus Wellington (19-8) for a trip to the state tournament at 7 p.m. Friday at UD Arena. Wellington beat Fort Loramie 38-35 in the other semifinal game.

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The Tigers trailed 29-28 early in the fourth quarter, but held the Cougars (21-6) to just one point the rest of the way. Jackson Center shot 50 percent from the field for the game.

Cincinnati Christian’s Logan Woods had 11 points for the Cougars, who were held 35 points under their season scoring average. They shot 35.3 percent from the field, including 2-for-9 from the 3-point line.

“I just felt like we challenged for the most part on their shots,” said Tigers coach Scott Elchert. “To hold them to 30 points speaks something about our defense and the fact that sometimes we’re willing to work for not a good shot, but a great shot.”

Jackson Center led 19-12 at the half, but the Cougars grabbed the momentum early in the third quarter, tying the game at 21.

“I don’t think it was any surprise, we talked about it at halftime, the way they were going to come at us, try to pick tempo up, put us in positions to make bad decisions,” Elchert said, “and we did enough for them to get the momentum and get thing back in (the game). But the bottom line is we were able to gain our composure and finish out strong.”

Woods made a layup early in the fourth quarter to give the Cougars a one-point lead, but a jumper by senior Garrett Heitkamp and a putback by Reichert gave Jackson Center the lead for good.

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The Tigers fell to St. Henry 46-43 in last year’s D-IV regional final. Elchert is hoping the experience will help his squad this winter. They’re seeking their first state appearance since 2016 and fifth overall.

“Obviously, experience doesn’t hurt,” Elchert said. “I think that’s one of the things that aids us in tournament time anyhow. Over the course of the last nine years, we’ve been very tournament tested. I know those kids haven’t always been on the team, but they’ve been in the stands watching.”

Columbus Wellington 38, Fort Loramie 35: Grant Albers had 11 points and Caeleb Meyer added 10 as the Redskins fell in a D-IV regional semifinal game for the second straight season.

Making their fourth straight regional appearance, the Redskins struggled from the field, shooting 35 percent. They also went 2-for-11 from behind the 3-point line and missed five free throws.

“It was sort of the story of the night,” said Fort Loramie coach Corey Britton. “Outside of that run in the second quarter, we didn’t shoot it very well. We didn’t shoot it as well as we have been in the tournament. A lot of that goes to them, their length is long and they challenge everything so that makes it hard. We got great looks all night long, it was just one of those nights where it wouldn’t go in the basket.”

Fort Loramie opened the second quarter on a 12-2 run, capped by an old-fashioned 3-point play by Caeleb Meyer to give them a 20-10 lead with about four minutes remaining in the first half.

The Jaguars went on a 8-0 run of their own, cutting the deficit to 20-16 at the half on a layup by Chase Oullette with about 10 seconds remaining.

The Jaguars took a 35-31 on a layup by Connor Herrick with about five minutes remaining. The Redskins tied the score at 35 on baskets by Nick Brandewie and Albers.

A free throw by Connor Herrick put Wellington up by one with 1:15 remaining. The Jaguars held the Redskins on their next possession and they were forced to foul Herrick again with about 17 seconds remaining.

The Redskins called a timeout and Herrick missed the free throw, but Oullette was able to snag the rebound and make the putback to give the Jaguars a 3-point lead. The sophomore had a game-high 13 points, including five points on out-of-bounds plays where he bounced the ball off the back of a Redskins defender and quickly grabbed the ball for a layup.

The Redskins weren’t able to get a shot off as time expired.

“We had a play drawn up coming out of the timeout that we wanted to run and sort of got behind the eight ball there and never got organized,” Britton said.

Fort Loramie finished its season 19-8.

“Our kids did everything they could to get on the right side of the scoreboard, but some nights it’s just not yours,” Britton said.

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