Prior to Friday’s Division II district final against Cincinnati Hughes, Thurgood Marshall head coach Shawn McCullough showed his team the Cougars photo after last year’s district final. He wanted a different outcome.
“I told them earlier today, just remember what happened last year in the district championships (a loss to Trotwood-Madison),” McCullough said. “I sent them the picture and nobody was smiling. I said we’re going to smile this year, we’re going to cut down some nets and we’ll advance to the next week. They didn’t quit.”
Rallying from an eight-point third quarter deficit and leaning on standout performances from sophomore Mekhi Elmore (27 points) and junior Chanze Amerson (20 points), the Cougars downed Hughes 68-65 at the University of Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Bank Arena. The contest was a regular season rematch of a game Marshall won 68-64 on the road Dec. 18.
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The Cougars (19-7) advance to play Trotwood-Madison (24-2) in the regional semifinals Thursday at 8 p.m. at UD Arena.
The Rams, surprisingly, had to rally as well.
Playing in the nightcap and down 40-23 at halftime to Purcell Marian, Trotwood outscored the Cavaliers 51-23 in the second half to record a 74-63 win. Alter beat previously-undefeated Wyoming, 77-66, in the opener for a D-II Dayton sweep.
“We couldn’t score early and we played lethargic,” Trotwood head coach Rocky Rockhold said. “We were two steps slow, they made some shots and our pressure was never set up because we couldn’t score. Second half we got buckets. You get buckets and apply pressure, it’s a different game.”
Purcell Marian, which lost by 33 and 23 points in its two regular season meetings with Alter, shot 50% from 3-point range in the first half and committed just 11 turnovers to Trotwood’s 10. In the second half, Purcell Marian turned the ball over 17 times. A 3-pointer by Courtney Blake with 6:55 to go in the fourth quarter gave Trotwood its first lead.
“At halftime we just had to get our heads right and get back on our game,” Trotwood senior Carl Blanton said. “The first half we let (Purcell) take over. We’re not used to that. We came out sluggish. Second half we came out pressuring them.”
Blanton led the Rams with 29 points, while Keontae Huguely and Carter Mims added 14 and 10, respectively.
After allowing 26 points in the first quarter and trailing by eight, Marshall picked up its defense, too. The Cougars allowed 10, 13 and 16 points in each of the next three periods.
Offensively, Elmore and Amerson scored 26 of their 47 points in the second half. Elmore, the Dayton City League player of the year, hit a shot at the third-quarter buzzer to tie the game 49-49 and then hit three 3s in the final 5:25 of the fourth. Amerson’s layup with 2:33 left gave the Cougars the lead for good, 62-61.
“He’s a helluva player,” Amerson said of Elmore. “He can play where ever he wants.”
“I’m here for my team,” Elmore said. “I’m always going to be there for my brothers and they do the same for me. I just came up with some big ones.”
Said McCullough: “Mekahi and Chanze…they played lights out.”
The regional semifinal meeting between Trotwood and Marshall will be a rematch of a Jan. 4 regular season meeting that the Rams survived 100-97.
“We lost on a last second shot with .4 seconds on the clock,” McCullough said. “(A rematch) has been the goal.”
“One thing I know about next week is Thurgood and Trotwood are going to battle,” Rockhold said. “They’re going to come at us and we’re going to go back at them. It will be a lot of fun if you’re a fan.”
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