The champions of two of the most competitive small school boys basketball conferences in southwest Ohio will meet Friday with a berth in the Division IV state tournament on the line.
Jackson Center held on to beat Shelby County Athletic League rival Fort Loramie 30-25 in a D-IV regional semifinal game at Kettering Fairmont High School’s Trent Arena on Tuesday night.
“They hung tough in a couple situations and made just enough plays,” said Tigers coach Scott Elchert. “I don’t think anybody thought that game would go much different than it did for the third time playing each other. Both teams defended the heck out of each other and know each other’s tendencies.”
In the other semifinal, D-IV third-ranked St. Henry used a big second-half run to beat seventh-ranked Catholic Central 54-36. St. Henry is back in the regional final for the first time since 2006.
“I’m super, super excited for our seniors as well as our entire team,” said St. Henry coach Eric Rosenbeck. “It’s been a long time coming. For these guys to fight and scrap and play St. Henry basketball in the third quarter, it was great to see.”
Jackson Center (22-5) will play St. Henry (23-3) in a D-IV regional final at 7 p.m. Friday at Trent Arena. The winner will advance to play the winner of Berlin Hiland and New Boston Glenwood in a D-IV state semifinal game at noon Friday, March 22, at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
Jackson Center won the SCAL championship, while St. Henry won the Midwest Athletic Conference.
Rosenbeck expects both a physical and mental war, he said.
“They really make you work and earn everything,” Rosenbeck said. “They’re as well-coached as anybody in the state. We know that. We scrimmage them every year and we’ll be ready.”
Jackson Center 30, Fort Loramie 25: TJ Esser led his team with nine points as the Tigers beat the Redskins for the third time this season.
Eli Rosengarten had 10 points for Fort Loramie, which finished its season (19-8).
Fort Loramie’s Nathan Raterman hit two free throws to give the Redskins a 25-24 lead, capping an 8-2 fourth quarter run.
“That’s our kids to a T,” said Fort Loramie coach Corey Britton. “They do that in every sport they play. They’re fighters. It’s no different tonight. I’m proud of the effort. We just couldn’t get that one stop, one loose ball or one rebound we needed.”
The Tigers quickly responded. A layup by Esser gave Jackson Center the lead for good and Trent Platfoot and Esser each hit two free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
St. Henry 54, Catholic Central 36: Seniors Ethan Thieman (14 points), Caden Niekamp (13) and Zach Niekamp (11) all scored in double figures for St. Henry.
Catholic Central’s Sabien Doolittle hit back-to-back buckets to tie the game at 28 with about four minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Redskins would go on a 26-8 run the rest of the way to advance to the regional final.
The Redskins shot 54 percent from the field (18-for-33) and 50 percent from the 3-point line (6-for-12).
Trey Dunn had 11 points for the Irish, who finished its season 22-4. Catholic Central lost to a MAC team in the regional semifinals for the second straight season. Last year, the Irish fell to eventual D-IV state champion Marion Local.