Boys basketball: Stivers wins second straight district title

Tigers will face Anna on Wednesday in regional semifinals

All those free throws shot in practice after practice in a quiet, empty gym — the only sounds the bouncing ball and the swishing net — made Stivers ready for the second half Saturday.

The Tigers shot 28 free throws in the final 16 minutes of their Division III district final against Cincinnati Taft in Northmont High School’s noisy gym. They made 22.

This was after they made only 6 of 13 in the first half and trailed by two points. “We felt like we should’ve been up maybe six at the half,” first-year Tigers coach Mark Parker said.

The second-half free-throw shooting, tighter defense and better rebounding led to a 77-73 victory and put a second straight district medal around the neck of every Tiger.

“Big, very big for our program just getting back here, staying focused, getting another district championship,” senior Trevon Ellis said. “Last year we did what it took to get to this moment and we won. So we wanted to get back here and stay focused and get it done again so we can move on.”

Next is a regional semifinal rematch with Anna, a No. 1 seed, at 8 p.m. Wednesday at UD Arena. Stivers, a No. 6 seed, lost to Anna 70-52 last year.

“I think everything happens for a reason,” Ellis said. “They’re ready for us, we’re ready for them to. We’ll see what happens.”

Anna (22-4) won its second straight district title with a 69-54 victory over National Trail (21-4). Kamren Steward led a balanced Rockets offense with 19 points. The 6:15 semifinal features Cincinnati Deer Park, a 77-38 winner over Milton-Union, against Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, a 57-47 winner over Versailles.

Stivers senior DaJaun Allen scored 22 points, made 6 of 8 free throws in the second half and 8 of 12 for the game. Ellis scored 21, made all eight of his free throws in the second half and 11 of 13 for the game.

“Seniors, seniors that’s what they do,” Parker said. “They’ve been playing three or four years on varsity they know what it takes, and they’re just going to step up when the moment’s big.”

Junior Antonnio Aubrey made 5 of 8 free throws in the second half and scored eight points. Allen Lattimore did most of the other scoring, making four 3-pointers on his way to 19 points.

Throughout the first half the Tigers fell behind the Senators by eight points, 10 points and so on. Each time the Tigers rallied. They finally got to the lead in the final minute of the third quarter on — what else — four Ellis free throws to take a 54-51 lead into the fourth quarter.

The Tigers led by as many as 10 early in the quarter and held on through trip after trip to the line.

“We came back out and we know Taft is going to bring pressure, so there could be a lot of fouls,” Parker said of the second half. “It was just a matter of being in the right positions, coming to the ball, spreading them out and hoping to get some fouls, and we did.”

Taft was led by 6-foot-5 Leroy Walker’s 25 points. But the Tigers tightened up their interior defense and allowed fewer driving lanes to the basket in the second half.

“The guys realized what we needed to do on the defensive end and rebound more,” Ellis said. “Help defense. I think that was they key and doubling-down on the bigs.”

The up-and-down nature of the first three quarters reminded the Tigers of their seasons of fighting injuries and other forms of adversity. The district medals made the journey worth it for Allen.

“It means a lot because we have been going through so much over the past years,” he said. “I love it. I love my team. I love my coaching staff.”

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